Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

Electric school buses have come with “extensive growing pains,” according to Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ transportation department. The department is experiencing compatibility issues between its nine electric buses and its set of chargers, a report from the department says. The issues have been sporadic, Tracy Mowat, NLPS’ transportation manager, told the Sounder, but have “made it a bit challenging – you have to put in a lot of extra effort.”

Department workers have to plug the buses in multiple times to get them to connect and chargers have had to be replaced, Mowat said. Software updates have also created problems.

The department has had to troubleshoot with the bus manufacturers and the electric charger company. NLPS purchased buses from three different manufacturers – International, Blue Bird and Lion Electric – and chargers by ABB, which were recommended by the bus companies, Mowat said.

Charging incompatibility issues were not something the department expected to experience when it got it introduced the electric buses into the fleet, Mowat said.The buses have also not been able to hold a charge long enough for some field trips. Currently all chargers are located at the district’s depot; staff are looking at getting additional chargers located elsewhere. Mowat said the electric school bus technology is still in its early days and while there is extra time going into making sure they are running properly, they are not costing the district additional dollars to contend with.  “It just means we have to think outside the box and come up with new strategies.”

Mowat said the district’s energy manager is developing long-range plans to electrify the entire school bus fleet.

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