This Thomas-Built Electric School Bus Aims to Replace Aging Diesel Models

One energy company wants to swap 100 percent of its state’s buses for electric models by the year 2030.

byCaleb Jacobs|
Electric Vehicles photo

American power company Dominion Energy is set to roll out the largest electric school bus initiative in the United States, and Thomas Built Buses will be the supplier of all 50 units featuring advanced battery and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. Named "Jouley," these electrified transporters will be available to Virginia school districts with a fleet of them anticipated to hit the state's roads by late 2020. This is part of Dominion's initiative to replace 50 percent of Virginia's diesel school buses with electric models by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030.

The buses will boast a total energy capacity of 220 kilowatt-hours, with Proterra electric vehicle technology sending power to a two-speed transmission. The Thomas Built examples are also the first to utilize DC fast charging and are said to be capable of re-juicing to their full 134 miles of estimated range in about three hours. What's more, they can supply power back to the grid using V2G functionality; if a school purchases a fleet of these electric buses, for example, they can use them as a sort of virtual power plant to promote clean energy and avoid constructing additional physical power plants.

“We are thrilled to lead the way in this groundbreaking initiative that is paving the way for a cleaner future and setting the bar for future electric vehicle conversions across the country,” said Caley Edgerly, president and CEO of Thomas Built Buses. “We believe electric school buses to be the future of pupil transportation. They offer quieter operation, lower operating costs and zero emissions to the benefit of students, parents, school districts and local communities.”

Each Jouley will be built atop Thomas Built's Saf-T-Liner C2 platform, which can be fitted with a range of active safety equipment. Collision avoidance systems are available, as are Zonar telematics which relay vehicle inspection information as well as GPS tracking back to the buses' home base.

The program's goal is to deliver 50 of the Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouleys at the same price to customers as traditional diesel models. And while school buses are already expensive to begin with—many cost around $70,000 apiece depending on options—this would negate any argument against initial investment. The cost and difficulty of maintenance, though, remains the biggest "what if" factor.

Just know that if anyone finds a way to lift and convert these bonafide EVs to four-wheel-drive, then we'll be taking a look at our own for, um, recreational purposes.

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