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April 02, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

Union County Schools unveils first electric school bus, powered by KUB

These are the first electric school busses in the Knoxville-area that are serviced through the electric vehicle and fiber initaives at KUB.

Union County Public Schools will soon plug in two electric school buses. It is the first time a school bus powered by electricity will serve Knoxville Utility Board’s (KUB) service territory. This initiative, backed by KUB’s support in installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure and funding granted through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), represents a significant milestone in the district and regions commitment to embracing innovative technologies.

On Tuesday, the school district’s Director of Schools, Greg Clay unveiled the school busses, alongside KUB’s President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gabriel J. Bolas.

“We are always working to ensure Union County students have access to innovative technologies,” said Greg Clay, Director of Schools at Union County Public Schools. “To see those efforts expand beyond the classroom and provide a new, more efficient mode of transportation for our children is truly rewarding.”

There are several benefits to the new school buses. First, they replaced the two oldest buses in the district. More importantly, electric school buses can improve climate, air quality, and grid resiliency, and benefit students and communities most affected by diesel exhaust pollution. Furthermore, each electric bus is capable of carrying 71 passengers and driving for a range of 135 miles. These buses will service students at Paulette Elementary School.

On average, electric buses last 12–15 years, which is similar to diesel buses. Notably, the cost of maintaining the electric buses would be a fraction of the maintenance cost of the diesel buses.

Union County Schools received funding from the 2022 EPA Clean School Bus program; however, the shift didn’t happen overnight. It took nearly two years to turn this dream into a reality. The school had to install two charging systems on campus, which KUB helped facilitate. Once the charging stations were installed, the buses were delivered.

““We are proud to remove barriers to electric vehicle adoption any time we can, and we are especially proud to support the first electric school buses serving our customers,” said KUB President and CEO Gabriel J. Bolas. “Supporting our area’s students and working toward a greener future are two efforts we take great pride in, so it’s great to see them come together in this way.”

KUB President, CEO Gabriel J. Bolas
KUB President, CEO Gabriel J. Bolas

Drive Electric Tennessee noted there are a handful of school districts across the state that have incorporated some form of electric busses into their fleets. Washington County Schools introduced the first electric school bus in the state in 2021. Bledsoe County Schools added two electric school buses in 2022, with great success.

According to Drive Electric Tennessee, eleven school districts were the recipients of EPA Clean School Bus funding:

  • Athens City Schools
  • Benton County Schools
  • Dickson County Schools (propane buses)
  • Johnson County Schools
  • McNairy County Schools
  • Paris Special School District
  • Putnam County Schools
  • Shelby County Schools
  • Union County Schools
  • Wayne County Schools
  • Weakley County Schools (propane buses)


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