First electric school buses in Florida come to Orange County

Orange County school officials celebrated the first fleet of electric school buses in Florida hitting the road this week.

Orange County Public Schools gathered at the Pine Hills Transportation Compound on Monday, February 20, to celebrate becoming the first district in the state of Florida to debut all-electric school buses.

“Nearly ten years ago, our district began significant work in the area of sustainability,” said OCPS Superintendent Dr. Maria Vazquez. “Today, we take the next step in reducing the overall carbon footprint of our transportation services department.”

The county will incorporate the six new electric buses for a chance to serve the 200 schools and over 70,000 riders that comprise the district.

“Orange County Public Schools has become the first school district in the state of Florida to put these all-electric buses into service,” said Dr. Vazquez.

According to Senior Director of Transportation William Wen says the new buses will produce instant savings in the form of maintenance costs, and that the county is determining how much those savings will be.

The buses will have a range from anywhere between 100 and 200 miles between charges. Wen says the county is looking into how they can be incorporated into their complex scheduling system. Wen says many of the district’s daily routes already “exceed 100 miles a day.”

“In order to make sure we can operate buses and still pick up the kids, we’re testing, realistically, what that range will be in real-life testing. A diesel bus with a 100-gallon tank, will get over 600 miles per tank,” said Wen.

Wen also emphasized that in addition to the bus purchase, the county has had to build out infrastructure to charge the buses. The county has invested in charging stations for the buses to make use of overnight and between routes.

Drivers and mechanics for the county will be retrained on both driving and maintenance of the new buses, according to Wen.

To improve the safety of the buses, Wen says the new fleet will have lighted-school bus signs to make them more visible at night. The buses will also feature new technology on stop-arms that detect whether cars are coming and issue audio warnings to students attempting to cross the street.

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