Oak Harbor Public Schools Transportation Director Francis Bagarella helped the school district secure a grant to cover the cost of its new all-electric bus. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor Public Schools Transportation Director Francis Bagarella helped the school district secure a grant to cover the cost of its new all-electric bus. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Plugged in: Oak Harbor school district adds electric bus to its fleet

Whidbey’s only electric school bus will be driving the streets of Oak Harbor soon.

There’s going to be a new sound hitting the streets once the Oak Harbor Public Schools’ all-electric school bus begins picking up students for school.

The school district recently purchased one all-electric bus after it received a $302,695 grant from the state.

The grant was funded by Washington’s share of the Volkswagen settlement that the car company paid as consequence of illegally installing software that disguised emissions from its vehicles.

Washington state received $112.7 million of the overall settlement, and the state earmarked a portion of that money for school bus grants.

Oak Harbor was the only school district in Island County to receive one of the grants. In total, 22 school districts received grants for new buses.

The bus cost $387,000, according to school district Transportation Director Francis Bagarella.

The school district covered the remaining cost after the grant, along with installing a new charging station.

Bagarella said a diesel rig can cost anywhere between $147,000-$153,000. Maintenance costs for the electric bus will be lower than the school district’s other propane and diesel engine buses, he added.

The new bus replaces a diesel engine that the district purchased in 1998. The school district’s fleet of 53 vehicles includes a mix of gas-, diesel- and propane-fueled buses, in addition to the new electric one.

The electric bus is much quieter than the district’s other school buses, but has a simulated sound of an engine when it turns on.

The district hopes that students will appreciate the quieter ride.

“Kids don’t have to be shouting to hear each other, so hopefully it’ll be quieter, in theory,” said Conor Laffey, a district spokesperson.

Bagarella said the bus also doesn’t emit the same fumes as diesel and propane engines, which will also hopefully help students with allergies or asthma.

The electric bus can drive 100 miles before it needs to be charged and requires six hours to reach a full charge, Bagarella said.

The school district’s longest bus route is 70 miles in a dayd.

Bagarella said the new bus may be put on a route that serves students living in Navy housing, and the wants to have it in service this month.

Drivers still need to go through training for operating the new bus, Bagarella said.

The bus will handle snow and ice similar to others in the fleet and has drop-down chains that will work in the snow.

“Nothing in Oak Harbor will stop us from driving the bus. We’re really excited to have it,” Bagarella said.

Oak Harbor Public Schools bought its first all-electric bus for $387,000, using a state grant of $302,695 to cover part of the cost. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor Public Schools bought its first all-electric bus for $387,000, using a state grant of $302,695 to cover part of the cost. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

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