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School district seeking share of $75M to replace oldest buses
electric bus

The oldest buses in the Manteca Unified fleet may be replaced with state-of-the-art zero emission electric buses.

The Manteca Unified governing board is expected to approve applying for funding for the clean air buses when they meet Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the district office, 2271 W. Louise Ave. The meeting is taking place three hours earlier than usual.

Full-size all-electric school buses cost about $225,000 although the final price for districts through the state administered program will be determined by a competitive bid process. With the amount of buses that would be bought statewide competition to land the contract is expected to be robust, the price should be lower. A comparable diesel powered bus costs $160,000.

The electric bus program is being administered by the California Energy Commission. It is using $75 million set aside as part of the voter approval of Proposition 39 several years ago.

The money will either be awarded to districts with the oldest school buses or school buses operating in disadvantaged communities and to schools that have a majority of students eligible for free or reduce-price meals in the previous year until the funding is depleted.

Manteca Unified can qualify under either scenario.

Funds will pay for  100 percent of the standard bus. Districts will buy them directly from the bus manufacturer(s) that competitively win the Energy Commission bid.

The electric buses are designed to benefit the health of children, lower emissions, provide a smoother and quieter ride, charge overnight, and have lower maintenance and fuel costs.

While the buses have a higher upfront cost, they cost less in terms of fuel and maintenance. A typical school bus running on diesel has $15,505 in annual costs, a consolidated natural gas bus $8,360, and an electric bus $4,484.

The program will also cover costs related to the installation of charging infrastructure.

The buses being replaced would be destroyed.

Manteca Unified School District  is the biggest transportation agency in the South County in terms of ridership. Based on 2017 numbers, every school day its fleet of 72 buses transports an average of 1,838 students from home to school.

In 2017, district busses traveled 1,325,424 miles. That’s the equivalent of going to the moon (238,857 miles) and back 2.7 times every year. The district has a fleet of 74 buses.

Eleven years ago the number of students transported was significantly higher for the 23,000-student school district. That was before state budget cuts prompted the district to increase the minimum distance for providing bus transportation between a student’s residence and their school campus.

Walking distance from home to school is now 1.25 miles for kindergarten through eighth graders and 2.5 miles for high school.

A typical diesel 81-passengr school bus costs $158,949. The special needs buses can cost between $127,000 to $136,133 depending upon seating capacity that ranges from 20 to 28 as well as wheelchair capacity.

Buses are driven up to 25,000 miles annually to and from school. That’s the equivalent of driving from San Francisco to New York and back 8.6 times.

School buses typically have a life of 25 to 30 years. Underscoring how well buses are maintained by district mechanics is the fact some buses in daily service have been on the road since 1995.

The district currently is leasing five Nissan all electric Leaf plug-in vehicles that are charged under a canopy of solar panels at the district office complex.

The Leafs — leased with a $75,000 clean air grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District — were too good of a deal to pass up. They are perfect for in-district trips where administrators need to visit campuses.

During the first two years of use  the five Leaf vehicles have logged 21,013 miles requiring 839 charge-ups. They have saved 698 gallons of gasoline and avoided the creation of 2,336 kilograms of greenhouse gases.

Their range, however, is limited to 100 miles or so per charge.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email