Franklin Pierce School District leads Washington State in carbon-free transportation with first electric bus

On Mon., June 17 Franklin Pierce Schools unveiled the first electric school bus in Washington State at their high school stadium in Tacoma. With Governor Inslee on board, the all-electric Blue Bird school bus made a victory lap around the track to the cheers of students, parents and teachers in the grandstand.

“In Washington state, we’re electrifying planes, trains, ferries and automobiles. And today, we’re showing we can electrify buses too,” Inslee said. “It’s exciting to celebrate the first electric school bus in Washington state, because this effort is, ultimately, all about our kids and their future.”

This “green” yellow bus is a pilot for the Franklin Pierce School (FPS) district with the goal of reducing carbon emissions and providing an educational opportunity for students and educators. Purchased with grant dollars, the bus features a custom educational energy dashboard showing real-time energy use and savings. The bus seats 72 and with a range of 120 miles will be used daily for pick-ups and drop-off, charging during school hours. It’s expected to save the district thousands in avoided maintenance and fuel costs. If proven successful, FPS plans to replace their diesel buses with electric.

“This opportunity is a win on every level for Franklin Pierce Schools,” said Joel Zylstra, Public Information Office for Franklin Pierce Schools, “Not only does it make sense from a financial and conservation perspective, but it also models the type of innovative problem solving that we ask of our students each day.”

FPS received funding for their bus from The TransAlta Centralia Coal Transition Grants Energy Technology Board. The board awarded two grants to the district, one totaling $330,155 to purchase Washington State’s first electric school bus and another award in the amount of $65,858 to install a 20-kilowatt (kW) Washington-made solar electricity generation system at the Keithley Middle School.

“The decision by the District to move their bus fleet from diesel to electric-powered and combine that effort with a solar project makes these grants very exciting for the members of the Board and makes an important move for the District towards renewable energy,” said Conrad Wieclaw, board member.

FPS worked with ATS Automation Building Solutions to utilize the grant dollars and is working with Tacoma Public Utilities now to fuel the bus with carbon-free electricity, optimize routes and infrastructure and plan for the expansion of their electric school bus pilot program.

“Transportation is Washington’s number-one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and while this is just one bus, this is truly the start of something greater,” said Jackie Flowers, Director of Tacoma Public Utilities. “We can’t wait to build on this partnership with Franklin Pierce Schools to help bring in more buses, more infrastructure, and to lend our utility expertise in paving the way for other schools.”

The Franklin Pierce School District was established in 1949 and located in Pierce County. The District proudly serves 8,000 students from preschool to grade 12 in a variety of settings including an early learning center, eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and one alternative high school. The mission of the District is to provide students an engaging educational environment, built upon proven academics and high standard, resulting in successful and contributing citizens.

The TransAlta Centralia Coal Transition Grants Energy Technology Board was formed as a result of the 2011 agreement between TransAlta and the state of Washington. This agreement, allowed Centralia to plan to move away from coal-fired operations with one unit shutting down in December 2020 and the second unit in December 2025. TransAlta is investing $55 million into Lewis and South Thurston Counties and the state of Washington through the Coal Transition Boards.

For more information on the Centralia Coal Transition Funding Boards visit:

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