PALMYRA – A village of just over 1700 people is now the proud owner of a Wisconsin first: The Palmyra-Eagle Area School District on October 25 unveiled its brand-new electric school buses, the first of their kind in the state.
The buses are owned and operated by the Dousman Transport Company, who teamed up with We Energies and InCharge to partner with the district on the electric bus project, which was made possible by federal funding through a grant of over two million dollars from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Bus Program Award.
Superintendent Ryan Krohn told WTMJ the district is replacing its entire diesel fleet with six of the new buses and is expecting to save over $50,000 on fuel costs.
“The route will run in the morning, we have about a 40-50 mile route, so we might go down about 60 percent,” Krohn said. “We’ll charge them during the school day when they’re plugged in and then they can charge again at night.”
Four charging stations are already in place at Palmyra Middle/High School, with room to charge up to eight buses. While they aren’t ferrying students to and from school just yet, the district is hoping to have them running routes before Thanksgiving.
“At the end of the day, to see the smile on a kid’s face, and be able to be the first person they see in the day and the last person they see at the end of the day, it can make a difference,” said Jessica Chelminak.
Chelminak is a manager at Dousman Transport Co. and one of their bus drivers. She hopped behind the wheel of one of the buses to give students, media, and the people who were involved in bringing the buses to Palmyra an exclusive test ride. Chelminak told WTMJ what’s different for her behind the wheel of the 33,000 pound vehicle.
“The only [thing] getting used to for me is how sensitive the gas and brake are, because these buses have quite a bit of get up and go,” she said.
Chelminak went through weeks of classroom and behind-the-wheel training as well as making sure her certifications and CDL license were up to date before becoming the first woman to drive an electric school bus in Wisconsin.
The Palmyra-Eagle Area School District is the first, but 14 other school districts around the state received funding in the same round of Clean Bus Program Award grants, and will soon join PEASD in running electric buses. Environmental protection specialist for the EPA’s Region Five in Chicago Tony Maietta told WTMJ that the EPA isn’t done offering funding for electric school buses.
“If schools do those two things, they’ll learn a lot about how much money they can get, the timeframes for having the buses delivered,” Maietta said. “All the ins and outs of the program can be learned at that website.”
Maietta said he’s expecting at least another 500 million dollars to be available for districts and their partners to start applying and join the electric movement. He said districts should have partners with the utility that provides them electricity and the manufacturers and operators of the buses in order to join Palmyra-Eagle and “Plug in and power up.”
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