Richland One is the first district in the state to receive an electric school bus

March 11, 2022

Richland One students soon will be among the first students in the state to ride to and from school on an electric school bus.

Austin Meyer of the Ava Lane Meyer Foundation presented Richland One with the first of four electric school buses being awarded to South Carolina districts through the “Kids Ride Clean” essay contest that was sponsored by the Foundation. The bus and the charger that comes with it are valued at $350,000.

“It is fast, it is safe, it is smooth, it is quiet,” Meyer said. “Proterra made the battery systems – they’re in Greenville, South Carolina. Freightliner made the chassis – they’re in Gaffney South Carolina. It was assembled by Daimler – they’re up in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is a Carolina bus and it is better than any bus we’ve ever had.”

Richland One received a state-of-the-art electric school bus through the “Kids Ride Clean” essay contest sponsored by Austin Meyer of the Columbia-based Ava Lane Meyer Foundation. The district is the first in the state to get an electric school bus. The bus and the charger that comes with it are valued at $350,000.

Students from five Richland One schools – Brockman Elementary School, Carver-Lyon Elementary School, Crayton Middle School, Dreher High School and Lower Richland High School – entered the essay contest and wrote about why they wanted the electric school bus and how it would be utilized if they won.

The prize – a state-of-the-art electric school bus – was presented to the district at a news conference held Thursday at the South Carolina Department of Education’s Lower Richland Bus Maintenance Shop in Hopkins. Attendees, including some of the district’s bus drivers, were able to take a ride on the bus after the presentation.

“This is kind of our trophy now and we plan to put it on the road as soon as possible. We have radios and video systems we need to place on it first,” said Rick Grisham, Richland One’s student transportation services director. “We will have a plan that it will run every day. We can’t wait to get it on the road.”

Grisham said bus drivers will take a two-hour training course before they get behind the wheel of the electric bus. The training will begin next week.

Richland One Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon said the electric bus also will be another tool that teachers can use to educate students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as about the importance of being good stewards of the environment.

Austin Meyer, owner of the Ava Lane Meyer Foundation, holds up a drawing submitted by a Richland One student as part of the “Kids Ride Clean” essay contest sponsored by the Foundation. Richland One was selected to receive an electric school bus based on the students’ contest entries.

“Imagine our young people that will ride this bus – the students who submitted essays and others – and what new technologies and innovations they will come up with. That’s what makes this so exciting,” said Dr. Witherspoon.

The Columbia-based Ava Lane Meyer Foundation was created by Austin Meyer for the advancement of clean energy and transportation. The contest is Meyer’s effort to reduce noise, pollution and health issues related to fossil-fuel burning vehicles in hopes that in the future every school bus will be electric.

“The bottom line is ‘Kids Ride Clean’ is an experiment to see if electric school buses can work, and I think this experiment is succeeding.” Meyer said. “I’m thinking of all the kids that are going to get to ride these (electric buses) in silence, safety and cleanliness.”

Mike Bullman, interim transportation director at the South Carolina Department of Education, said the electric bus presented to Richland One represents “the first step of what we hope will be a tremendous journey to electrify school buses in the state of South Carolina.”

“There’s a commitment from the Department of Education to continue this move,” he said. “I would encourage all of the districts, every transportation office around the state to pursue this path because it is one of the best things we can do for the students.”