Manatee County Schools receive green light for electric school buses

The Manatee County School District was awarded a state grant through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to purchase electric school buses for next school year.

"We're pretty excited. It's new technology. It's in line with, you know, regular cars on the road know a lot of those are going electric now," Jamie Warrington, Director of Transportation said.

The district said they will start out small with three to five buses. The buses will take up to four hours to charge and can travel up to 130 miles on a full charge. As part of the pilot, the district has identified test routes for the buses that will go no longer than 80 miles.

"We wanted to give ourselves a little buffer in there so that we didn't run the risk of maybe the bus going dead out in the middle of the road in the middle of a run," Warrington said.

The district will keep track of mileage, charge time and maintenance of the buses that will go through the same inspections as diesal buses. The electric school buses run quieter but come with a larger price tag. An electric school bus is $300,000 compared to a regular school bus that’s around $100,000. The grant covers 75% of the cost and school leaders say this project is worth it when you consider the environmental impact.

"You’re looking at zero emissions. So like any good electric vehicle, there won't be any CO2 going out into the atmosphere or anything along that line. You know, the maintenance on it is is going to be minimal because you don't have your typical combustion engine in there that’s creating all the air pollutants and the oil," Warrington said.

"They're idling and you can see the fumes. Many of those buses are old. There is a lot of soot in the air. We are breathing those things and especially for young people and for kids, the impact on their health is a lot more significant than for us adults," Dr. George Philippidis, an Associate Dean with USF said.

Once the school board gives official approval, the plan is the debut the buses sometime during the next school year.