At first glance, this sounds good – high upfront costs but dramatic savings in operational/variable costs:

From the PGE site, we learn that diesel buses are about $90K to buy and cost about $1.11 per mile to run, including maintenance and fuel.  Electric buses cost $350K (the Post article has them at $375K) and cost about $0.20 per mile, including maintenance and fuel.  Clearly it’s cheaper to buy diesel and to run electric.

Source: Gaines: A reality check on electric school buses – Complete Colorado – Page Two

But then there’s the reality check – because details really do matter, and they are often left out of government project justifications:

If you figure an average of 16,000 miles per year (the high end estimate on yearly mileage for a bus), and include only the costs laid out here, the payback on electric is about 20 years.  That number was startling to me because 20 years was the top end, best-case-scenario I could find for the life of the bus batteries.  In other words, right as we’d start to realize the savings, the bus would stop working.


The author of the above is a physics teacher at Northeastern Junior College, in Colorado.