HAVRE — A vast majority of the buses rolling down the road use either gas or diesel. Two buses in the Havre Public Schools' fleet are entirely electric, becoming the first fully-electric buses to be used in Montana according to service attendant Allen "Woody" Woodwick.
He says it was about a year's process, after HPS was awarded a grant for two buses, and they have proven to be efficient.
The grant, from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, provided most of the funding. Woodwick said the grant came from a settlement with Volkswagen and HPS payed about $120,000 out of their pocket for the buses, while the grant covered the other 85% of the cost.
"That's less than the price of one diesel bus," Woodwick said. "They're going around 130,000 to 140,000 dollars for a diesel bus."
One question they had before the buses came in was how would they work during cold weather? So far, they've withstood the tests of a Montana winter, and have saved time and money.
"It only takes a few hours to get a full charge. No oil changes, no transmission filter for flushes, they don't go through as many brakes," Woodwick explained. "They have auxiliary heaters so they've stayed warm through when it was 30 below. And when we had a lot of problems with our diesel busses gelling up and freezing up, these didn't. They're handling the cold and the streets really well, too."
Right now, there's one rural route and one in-town route, and the drivers say the buses are handling them well.
Pat Trumpour drives the rural route and has been driving for about seven years. He said over the phone that his biggest question going in was the differences between electric and a normal bus. He's found very little difference thus far.
"Very little difference as far as driving it," Trumpour said. "There's a lot of the same as the regular bus. I like it. It's certainly quieter. Works just as well as diesel. It's got as much power, at least as much, if not more than some of them. They're definitely a lot cheaper to run."
The city won't replace its entire fleet with electric buses, but Woodwick says they envision more coming not just in Havre, but in surrounding towns as well.
"It'll be very beneficial. We're not we're not going to replace our whole fleet with electrics. We really can't do that," Woodwick said. "We've had a handful of other towns get a hold of us and ask us how they're doing. So far, we've we've had good responses with them and so far they're working out good. And I think we'll see a bunch more of them."