Steamboat students will ride electric next school year
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Some Steamboat Springs School District students taking the bus to school or activities next school year will be riding in quiet electric style.
After receiving a more than $317,000 ALT Fuels Colorado grant in January, the district will place an order within the week for an all-electric-powered, 72-passenger Blue Bird school bus, according to Casey Ungs, the district’s transportation manager.
“After going down (to Denver) and test driving this bus, I’m very excited,” Ungs said, noting the electric bus will be non-polluting and less expensive to maintain since it has fewer moving parts.
Ungs said the electric bus will leave the district bus barn requiring little warm-up time, reduce overall idling pollution at the schools and even enhance student rider behavior.
The electric bus will replace a 2005 diesel-powered bus with more than 250,000 miles on the odometer that has reached the end of its service life in the district’s fleet. Ungs said the electric Blue Bird bus with a more than 100-mile range could be used on any of the district routes. The district will install an electric charging station inside an existing bus storage bay as part of the state grant funding.
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Bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corp. in Georgia reported strong sales of more than 400 electric, zero-emission school buses in the past three years. Electric buses are being delivered or are on order for other school districts, such as West Grand, Aurora, Boulder, Denver and Durango, according to an Electric School Bus Fleet Working Group run through nonprofit Denver Metro Clean Cities.
Ungs said he is “pumped up” about the electric bus and hopes to pursue funding for the replacement of eight diesel buses at a rate of one per year. The district also operates five propane-powered buses.
The Yampa Valley has been on a roll in the past year for electric vehicle infrastructure growth. EV drivers now have access to level three fast-charging stations at Kum & Go on Anglers Drive in Steamboat Springs and on Moffat Avenue in downtown Yampa.
Tesla installed a proprietary supercharger station at Kum & Go on East Victory Way in Craig, and Yampa Valley Electric Association customers are eligible for a $250 rebate for the installation of a residential level two charger through the member-owned co-op’s Energy Hero program.
Winnie DelliQuadri, special projects manager for the city of Steamboat Springs, said Steamboat Springs City Council will review a recently developed Steamboat Springs EV Readiness Plan on Tuesday. The plan strategies were created with the help of HDR consulting firm, and a draft of the plan will be posted on the Engage Steamboat website. DelliQuadri said the city will solicit public comment for a two-week period before the plan is finalized.
The project manager said the city has applied for a Charge Ahead Colorado grant in hopes of installing another standard public level two charging station in the rodeo parking lot at Howelsen Hill near the ice rink. Steamboat Springs is home to nine previously installed EV charging stations available to the public or lodging guests searchable at PlugShare.com.
According to the Colorado Energy Office’s EValuateCO online dashboard, Colorado now has 33,654 EVs on the road, which includes 23,351 full electric vehicles and 10,303 hybrid-electric vehicles. Across the state, the EV charging infrastructure includes 1,279 level two and 143 faster level three locations. The dashboard shows 97 electric vehicles on the road in Routt County, relative to 82 in Grand, 224 in Summit and 463 in Eagle counties.
Steamboat Springs Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said two days of local route driving tests in early February of a fully electric Proterra transit bus proved very positive. He said electric transit buses have greatly improved since the city previously tested models.
“Compared to the electric bus we had here five or six years ago, the progress is night and day,” Flint said. “At the time we tested before, they did not have the power or range needed. This one that we tested (in February) had more than enough power and good modeling on range. We are very excited about the future of these vehicles.”
Flint said the transit department plans to test two more brands of electric buses, Nova Bus and Gillig, this winter before returning to City Council for more discussions. Electric transit buses are used in other areas across Colorado such as Denver, Boulder, Breckenridge, Fort Collins, the Roaring Fork Valley and Eagle and Summit counties. The EValuateCO dashboard shows 48 electric transit or coach buses currently in use in the state.
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Students in the Steamboat Springs School District generally did as good or better in English language arts last school year but struggled to keep pace in math, according to results of state standardized testing.