The wheels on the bus go round and round, while the engine doesn't make a sound.
Through the rest of the month, Rochester Public Schools will pilot test an electric school bus.
The district was chosen by First Student Transportation to be the first to test the electric Blue Bird bus. The bus will be used on a school route that transports Willow Creek and Bamber Valley students.
Parents listening for the school bus on that route should rely on their eyes instead.
“You’re going to throw parents off,” joked Don Barlow, School Board president.
The flat-front bus is a pilot model. It was driven to Minnesota from the manufacturing facility in North Carolina. After First Student and school district officials evaluate its performance, First Student will likely introduce a cone-nose bus into its fleet serving Rochester with more on the way. No timeline has been set, however, a vehicle charging station has been installed at First Student’s Northwest bus facility.
Karl Stathakis brought his son, Sam to see the bus at a demonstration at the Edison Building Tuesday evening.
“He loves buses, it doesn’t matter what they’re propelled by,” he said.
The bus has about a 120-mile range. That falls about 20 percent if other electric systems such as heat and air conditioning are running at full capacity while the bus is traveling. The route the bus will be used on is between 40 to 50 miles of travel.
Alexander Cook, chief engineer at First Student, said technology has been changing and improving quickly and has made electric vehicles a viable option. Newer buses will perform even better, he said.
“This is the way the future’s going to go,” Cook said.
Stathakis said that by the time Sam is old enough to drive a bus or ride one by himself, electric vehicles won’t be uncommon.
“He might not know why this was a big deal today,” he said.
Cook said the technology is being implemented in part for cost and in part for Sam’s generation.
“We have an opportunity to leave the world a better place for future generations.”
Once the bus’s batteries have been in service long enough that they hold about 80 percent of the charge they did while new, they can be used for energy storage for building-based sources such as solar, Cook said.