The Cherokee Nation is investing in new electric buses, for both its schools and rural transit service.
The addition of electric buses to the Cherokee Nation transit fleet comes with the promise of long-term cost savings, but immediate benefits for the environment. It’s part of a long-term strategy for the nation.
The Cherokee Nation has added three electric buses to their fleet, as part of a program to reduce the impact on the environment. The buses and related infrastructure represent almost $2 million in new spending.
The Nation bought two electric transit buses, and one electric school bus. The school bus will go to Sequoyah High, and the transit buses will run routes from Tahlequah to Catoosa, and Stilwell to West Siloam Springs.
“We're putting solar on community buildings and charging stations in across the reservation. This is a big boost in our effort to reduce our carbon footprint,” Cherokee Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “It's going to make a big impact on the environment, it's going to help us get people to work and school and the other places we serve."
Driver Chris Gulager said the transit buses have a 400-mile range with a six-hour charge. The school bus has less, but more than enough for the daily routes, according to Gulager.
The Cherokees believe they have the first electric rural transit busses in the country, and the first electric school bus in the state. Chad Harsha, the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Cherokee Nation, said the buses have lower maintenance needs, and the cost of powering them is less than diesel.
"We're still finding projects that fit within our strategic plan, including more school buses and other clean diesel substitutes, that we can make across Cherokee Nation business and Cherokee Nation Government," he said.
The Cherokee Nation said they've set aside about $5 million for more projects to buy and support electric vehicles, which they believe are certain to only improve with time and come down in price. The bus purchases represent the Cherokee Nation’s largest investment in the technology so far.