Orangeburg County School District celebrated its 20 new electric school buses on Monday at an event that included U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan.

Electric buses will create good-paying jobs, build a cleaner and stronger economy and help the country address climate change, Regan said.

“Transitioning to clean school buses means cleaner air and less pollution. It means healthier kids and healthier communities. It means less time away from school and increased focus and productivity,” Regan said. “You all are leading the way, helping to drive forward our country’s transition to a clean transportation future, one electric school bus at a time.”

Reagan spoke at a Monday afternoon event at Marshall Elementary School. Congressman James Clyburn also attended.

The district received $6.3 million in grants for the purchase of the buses as part of the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program rebate competition.

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The money was made available through the bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in November 2021.

Children are expected to begin riding on the buses within the next month.

Clyburn said the buses will provide a safer and healthier ride for children.

“This is about clean, healthy buses for our children to ride on,” Clyburn said.

Unlike traditional buses with internal combustion engines, electric buses use an electric motor to generate mechanical power.

Electric motors are generally located at the rear of the bus, close to the wheels, allowing power to be transmitted directly to the drive wheels. Electric motors are touted as offering high energy efficiency and rapid acceleration, which contribute to the overall performance of the electric bus.

The state-of-the-art buses, which cost about $350,000 each, include mobile two-way radios, camera systems, Wi-Fi capability and GPS/telematics systems.

The federal grant also helped pay for the infrastructure needed for the buses, including charging stations.

The ten charging stations, which will be complete by the end of the week, will each charge two buses at one time. The charging stations are located at the district’s transportation office on Old Edisto Drive near the Orangeburg Flea Market.

State Department of Education officials say an electric bus can generally travel 135 to 140 miles on a single charge. Officials estimate an average bus route is about 70 miles.

The buses will be charged primarily at night and can be completely charged within two to three hours if there is a battery life of 60 percent to 70 percent.

The buses will be able to transport about 77 elementary school students and between 36 and 38 middle and high school students.

Prior to holding a public press event, Clyburn, Regan, school district officials, students and the media got to ride one of the electric buses for a few miles.

While traveling on the bus, students got to ask questions such as “How long does it take to make an electric bus?” and “How much does an electric bus weigh?”

The answers are that it takes about six to nine months to build an electric bus and that each bus weighs 33,000 pounds.

OCSD Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster said the district’s 15 new electric buses – which will join its five existing electric buses – will leave the district with 17 buses older than 10 years. Of the district’s 189 school buses, Foster said about 92 percent are less than ten years old.

The buses can put on a lot of miles in the second-largest county in the state.

Foster said the district’s bus fleet travels a total of about 1.3 million miles a year. About 78 percent, or 8,300 of the district’s 10,600 students, ride a school bus.

School district officials tout the savings the electric buses will provide the district.

According to the manufacturer, Thomas-built electric buses can save $2,000 a year in fuel and $4,000 a year in maintenance costs.

“This will contribute to less mechanical issues and more buses on the road assisting to ensure students are transported to and from school,” the school district said in a statement.

The electric buses are also touted as a positive for students.

“There is no higher priority for me or President Biden than ensuring our children can thrive in a clean and healthy environment,” Regan said. “Every single day, millions of children across this country ride to and from school on these yellow school buses.”

“For most, it is a source of connection to the community, a quintessential part of being an American, but the diesel exhaust of these buses can cause lung damage, aggravate asthma, exacerbate other health issues for children that ride the bus,” Regan said. “On day one, President Biden committed to ensuring our children can grow up in a healthier, more sustainable world and the Clean School Bus program is central to those efforts.”

He said, “This is what President Biden’s Investing in American agenda is all about.

“We are transforming how millions of children get to and from school. We are positioning our nation to go further and faster than ever before to achieve our climate, education and public health goals.”

The state of South Carolina received about $58.46 million for new, electric buses as part of the federal Clean Bus program.

Overall, 168 buses will be delivered as a part of this program.

Orangeburg County was one of 16 school districts in the state to receive the funding through the S.C. Department of Education.

Of the $58.5 million, about $26 million is coming to the 6th Congressional District. Orangeburg County is in the district.

Nationally, about $5 billion from the program is being rolled out over the next five years.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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