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Entegrity Gives Boost To EV School Buses

3 min read

Parker Higgs is proud that Entegrity of Little Rock is helping put hundreds of Arkansas students into electric-powered school buses.

The buses are better for the environment, better for children’s health, and their silence might even calm kids’ behavior. We’ll let Higgs, Entegrity’s Arkansas director, explain.

“This is a little anecdotal, but I believe it to be true,” Higgs said. “With electric buses, the quiet ride means the students no longer have to yell over a noisy engine to talk to their friends. A lot of drivers have actually reported that the students are better behaved.”

That’s on top of more well-documented benefits, the energy services company says. As opposed to diesel engines, electric buses expose students to no emissions, potentially improving school attendance and test scores. Special needs students can particularly benefit, Higgs said.

For those reasons, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last month that three Arkansas school districts will receive nearly $11 million in federal grants to buy 35 electric buses. Those 70-passenger buses sell for close to $400,000 apiece, compared with $150,000 for a diesel school bus.

Higgs recommends that schools go electric only if they can get grants to make up the cost differential. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law set aside $5 billion for several rounds of grants for clean vehicle fleets. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act devoted another $700 million or so for zero-emissions school buses.

A first round of grants in October 2022 awarded $1 billion to 370 school districts, including $9.875 million to the Little Rock School District. Entegrity partnered with the district to get that grant. It wasn’t involved in LRSD’s $8.625 million second-round grant announced last month. That will finance 25 electric buses.

The Farmington School District worked with Entegrity to get $1.22 million for six electric buses, and the Quitman School District received $820,000 for four clean buses.

Electric buses align well with Entegrity’s mission of helping entities cut fuel expenses by conservation, electrification and adoption of solar power.

Since school buses generally travel fewer than 100 miles daily and can be charged between morning and afternoon runs, as well as overnight, “they actually have a great usage profile for electric vehicles,” Higgs said. He doesn’t recommend them for traveling sports teams or bands; their range per charge is usually about 125 miles.

Entegrity, which has partnered with Farmington schools over several years on energy efficiency, LED lighting, HVAC upgrades and solar arrays, is also working with districts on EV charging.

“For some applications, a level 2 charger is OK,” fully charging a bus battery in about eight hours, Higgs said. “But there are level 3 fast chargers, which are  four times faster than level 2 chargers. You can actually get those buses charged in two hours or less.”

Higgs said that with about $2 billion remaining in EV school bus grant programs, Entegrity is eager to work with other school districts.

He said most districts will spend, especially in an inexpensive electricity state like Arkansas, far less on EV charging than they would on diesel for standard school buses.

“You’re also removing thousands of moving parts that you would have on an internal combustion engine,” Higgs said.

“There’s no more engine oil, and regenerative braking means you use the braking system about five times less. So if you can find maintenance staff familiar with EVs, you’ll be spending less on replacement parts and maintenance labor with electric buses than you would with internal combustion engines.”

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