North Carolina’s first electric school bus serving the public school system has arrived in Randolph County and will run on co-op power. The new bus was unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 24 at the Randolph County Board of Education. The project came to life as a collaboration between Randolph EMC and the local community, with discussions between the co-op and Randolph County Schools beginning back in 2019.
The electric bus will serve a route for students at Southwestern Randolph Middle School, where Randolph EMC has installed a DC fast charger and related electrical infrastructure to support the bus. The electric bus will be powered by Randolph EMC and was manufactured at a plant in Randolph County.
Funding for the electric bus came from the NC Volkswagen settlement, and was secured through a collaborative effort between North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, Randolph EMC and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. The DC fast charger installed at the school is part of NC Electric Cooperatives’ $1 million investment in rural electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the state. Randolph EMC made significant contributions to the charging infrastructure and other equipment that will power the bus.
“Randolph EMC was founded by several concerned individuals who sought to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians through electrification,” said Michael Trent, director of innovative energy solutions at Randolph EMC. “Today, REMC continues to partner with key organizations to bring value to the community.”
Benefits of the electric bus for Randolph County Schools and the surrounding community include reduced emissions and noise pollution, lower maintenance costs and a reduction of operating costs over the life of the bus. In addition to these environmental benefits, the electric bus will serve as a case study on electric vehicle technology for Randolph EMC. The co-op plans to analyze how charging the bus will impact the grid and the school system’s electric bill, drawing out key insights and analysis that will inform future applications of electric vehicle technology across North Carolina.
“North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are leaders in innovation and consistently strive to identify and deploy new technologies to better serve our members and build a brighter future for our communities,” said Nikki Lynberg, innovation and business development analyst at North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives who worked with project partners to secure funding for the bus. “It is great to see this project come to life and have an electric bus on the road serving co-op members.”
Attending the ribbon-cutting event were project partners including Randolph EMC, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, Randolph County Schools, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, N.C. Department of Public Instruction, bus dealer Carolina Thomas, LLC and bus manufacturer Thomas Built Buses, Inc..
Randolph County School’s electric bus is the first of nearly 50 currently in production for public school systems across the state and will begin its first route in the next several weeks.