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August 30, 2023

An Electric Start to the School Year

Three Rivers Community Schools in Michigan and its two electric school buses are charged up for another school year.

The school district is starting its fourth year transporting students with electric school buses using charging infrastructure developed in partnership with I&M. School district officials worked with I&M to determine the best location for two Level 2 chargers, which are located on the high school campus.

“Working with I&M to be a pioneer in this electric vehicle transformation has truly been a great experience. We tout to other school districts how important it is to partner with their local power company for success with electric buses,” said Kenni Jean Schrader, Transportation supervisor for Three Rivers Community Schools. “In the past four years, our electric school buses have become the highlight for 500-plus students who board the bus daily.”

Three Rivers Community Schools uses the energy-efficient buses on inner-city routes, where buses spend much of their time idling. With the electric school buses, children’s exposure to harmful diesel exhaust fumes and particles plummets. The buses are also quieter and less expensive to maintain.

“We have one student who is sensitive to loud noises. Since riding the electric bus, that student is doing very well and enjoys the daily drive to school,” Schrader said. “Another benefit is the savings. The buses are cheaper when it comes to maintenance because their motors have fewer moving parts compared to an internal combustion engine, and electricity is far less expensive than gasoline or diesel. In fact, the district has saved more than $38,000 in diesel fuel costs due to the electric buses.”

Three Rivers Community Schools received two of Michigan’s first electric buses in 2019 and since has paved the way in electric education for schools across the country. Last year, the school district received the Green Bus Summit Fleet Award for the Best Rural Fleet under 50 vehicles. Schrader has also traveled the country giving speeches, seminars and training.

“It was a goal of ours to share that electric school buses could successfully operate and thrive in the hard winter weather conditions we experience in southwest Michigan. This demonstrates using electric school buses can be used anywhere across the country,” Schrader said. “We also share that the move to electric buses is a major shift from how our children get to and from school and it’s within reach.”

The electric buses are helping the Three Rivers community by reducing exhaust fumes and providing safe and efficient transportation for school and community events. The electric buses were used to help hand out lunches during the COVID-19 pandemic when school was virtual and even drove local veterans to board their honor flight.

“By having the two electric school buses, we can safely and efficiently transport community members, like local veterans, to events where they don’t have to be around diesel exhaust fumes,” Schrader said. “We’re visually demonstrating what it means to be a socially responsible citizen. We will continue to find additional ways to reduce our carbon footprint and will look to I&M to see where it can help us along the journey.”

Three Rivers Community Schools has plans to add four more Level 2 chargers and infrastructure for 12 more electric school buses. I&M also helped South Bend Community Schools secure a grant bringing two electric school buses to its fleet. 

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