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Missouri School District Charges Up

September 8, 2010 - 11:30am


Missouri's Lee's Summit R-7 school district's distribution fleet was tired.


Many of the vehicles had racked up more than 300,000 miles and made frequent trips to the shop to repair the 20 plus-year-old parts.

However this August, with $330,000 in Recovery Act funding from the Clean Cities program, the district sold their old trucks and welcomed a new fleet of four all-electric medium-duty delivery trucks. The EV distribution fleet transports items such as cafeteria food products, school supplies and furniture from the districts distribution center to the 34 facilities across seven communities in the district.

Saving fuel, funds and fresh air

During the vehicles' lifetime, the district will avoid the burning of approximately 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel and avoid 60,000 pounds of emissions—saving nearly $200,000.

"Getting supplies to and from these schools is essential to learning," says Ron Cox, the district's director of purchasing and distribution. "We are able to support teachers and students in an environmentally friendly way."

When it came down to making the purchasing decision, Cox says that EVs made the most sense. Each distribution truck—which have 24-foot boxes for cargo—is going less than 100 miles a day, meaning they wouldn't need to stop and recharge anywhere on their route.

"These EVs promote an environmentally clean initiative that students can see every day," says Cox."We are cutting back on diesel costs. And instead of paying for fuel, that money can go to teachers and classrooms."

The fleet is also making a difference with emissions in the schools, says Cox.

Many loading docks, where the trucks pull up to unload, are located near the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in schools. When the older trucks pulled into this area, emissions could be sent into the school.

"Our team is concerned about the air quality for students, and we're excited to be cleaning it up," says Cox.

Funding stays local

The U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program provides cost-match grants to recipients to promote alternative fuels and advanced vehicles around the country. The total cost of the project—including the vehicles and charging stations—was about $742,000, with $371,000 coming from Recovery Act funding. Because the new vehicles do not need as much maintenance or fuel, the remaining $371,000 will be paid with the difference in budget.
The vehicles are supporting the local manufacturing economy—the trucks were manufactured locally by Kansas City-based Smith Electric Vehicles with the truck bodies being built by Brown Cargo Van of Lawrence, Kan.

Thanks to these vehicles, Cox says distribution department was able to retain jobs.

"Because these vehicles are so cost-effective, we're able to keep the distribution center fully staffed," Cox says.