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Harrisonburg adds two electric school buses to its fleet; two chargers also installed

Crystal Graham
harrisonburg EV school
Submitted photo

The City of Harrisonburg’s public transportation fleet has added two EV school buses as part of the city’s vision and environmental plan.

The 2024 International CD Series EV school buses were obtained in part from a grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The clean school bus program grant provided $570,300 to HDPT to offset the difference between what two new diesel buses would cost versus the cost of the two electric school buses, as well as for the purchase of associated charging infrastructure.

In addition to the buses, HDPT has installed two chargers at their facility on Washington Street, with room for eight more chargers to be added when needed.

In total, the city’s contribution to the purchase was $229,650.

The buses are built to travel approximately 135 miles on a single charge and utilize a regenerative braking system that will allow the bus to charge itself when not accelerating.

For HDPT Director Gerald Gatobu, the new buses are a step into the future that the department is eager to take.

“HDPT serves many of our community’s youngest members, so it is important to all of us here that we are part of ensuring a healthy future for them by protecting our environment,” said Gerald Gatobu, HDPT director. “I am sincerely grateful for the HDPT team that has worked hard to receive the Virginia DEQ grant and to bring these buses to Harrisonburg.”

The buses are currently going through inspections and installation of equipment such as a radio system.

Staff, including drivers and city mechanics, will be trained on the new buses before they are assigned to a school route and put into service.

The additions bring the city’s fleet to seven fully electric vehicles across all departments and seven hybrid vehicles. Another five hybrid vehicles have been ordered.

The investment into lower-emission vehicles aligns with the Harrisonburg City Council 2043 Vision Plan that in part calls for the city to protect natural assets that are critical to maintaining local quality of life by investing in sustainable infrastructure and equipment.

The city’s Environmental Action Plan also outlines ways the organization can address sustainable transportation by developing an alternative fuel fleet program.

“School buses are an excellent application for electric vehicles – they can charge overnight when not in use, they have no emissions, which is better for our environment and the health of riders, and they will save our taxpayers money in the long run due to reduced fuel and maintenance costs,” said Laura Dent, Harrisonburg vice mayor. “These important strides help us work toward our 2043 vision for the future.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.