Navajo Nation’s largest school district gets first electric buses

Sep 19, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 6:24 am
Blue Bird delivered its first electric school bus to Chinle Unified School District in Arizona, the...
Blue Bird delivered its first electric school bus to Chinle Unified School District in Arizona, the largest school district in the Navajo Nation. Zero-emission transportation helps improve student and community health. Here, a “transporter of future Navajo leaders” (Chinle USD bus driver) provides an orientation to the functionality and benefits of the EV for students and community members at the debut appearance of the first EV school bus on the Navajo reservation. (Chinle Unified School District image)
(Chinle Unified School District image)

PHOENIX – The Navajo Nation has now received the first of three electric buses to help its largest school district become more energy and fiscally efficient.

“Chinle Unified School District is always a leader, so we like that, being first,” Chinle Unified School District Superintendent, Quincey Natay told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“I’ve talked to several districts across Indian Country about this exciting opportunity that my students are going to get to enjoy.”

Chinle Unified School District is the largest school district in the Navajo Nation both in number of students and geographic area.

It serves 3,300 students in eight schools, including the largest reservation high school in the United States, meaning the bus covers a lot of ground.

“We transport about 6,000 miles a day and about 60 percent of those routes are on unimproved dirt road,” Natay explained.

This means the upgrade to electric will be a big money saver in the long run.

The bus manufacture, Blue Bird, estimates their electric bus users on average pay about 14 cents per mile in energy costs compared to roughly 49 cents per mile with diesel fuel.

This means if the entire fleet of buses was converted to electric, the school would be able to save about $2,100 in fuel costs daily.

“We’re beginning to save money, dollars that we can reallocate to the classroom as we begin to expand our fleet,” Natay said.

The district is also planning to continue to upgrade its electric vehicle infrastructure as their fleet grows.

“We do have slow trickle-chargers already installed and we are in the process of installing rapid chargers,” Natay added.

The district will receive a total of three electric buses after applying for a Transportation Modernization Grant through A for Arizona, a nonprofit that aims to improve achievement in the state, particularly for low-income communities.

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Navajo Nation’s largest school district gets first electric buses