New school bus is pure magic … and electricity

Sure, the Magic School Bus is pretty cool. It can travel through space, shrink to fit in Ralphie’s blood stream and withstand heat when baked into a cake.

But have you ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, electric school bus, magic school bus

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New school bus is pure magic … and electricity

Graphic of a school bus surrounded by stars

We spend $3,184,457,143 on school bus fuel annually, according to the American School Bus Council. But a new bus on the road might change that.

Key Points

  • There’s a new magic school bus.
  • Its magical power is that it’s electric.
  • This could mean lower maintenance and fuel costs for school districts. 

Sure, the Magic School Bus is pretty cool. It can travel through space, shrink to fit in Ralphie’s blood stream and withstand heat when baked into a cake.

But have you ever wondered what fuel it runs on?

If it’s like the majority of the buses in the U.S., it probably runs on diesel. We spend $3,184,457,143 on school bus fuel annually, according to the American School Bus Council.

But a new bus on the road might change that.

The Jouley, named after the joule unit of energy, is Thomas Built Buses’ latest school bus model. It has a 100-mile, all-electric range and offers an option to add a battery pack for more range.

The company anticipates that the bus’s lower maintenance and fuel costs will make it affordable for school districts in the long-term.

Thomas Built believes communities will value the Jouley’s benefits beyond cost savings — like no noise pollution and no emissions. Jouley’s battery could even serve as a backup power source for schools or neighborhoods during power outages. And students will like its 120-volt and USB-charging ports for laptops and cellphones.

So, don’t freak out, Arnold, but you might want to consider staying home from your next field trip. It’s sure to be electric. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Volkswagen’s comeback will be electric

Did you hear that Volkswagen is bringing the microbus back?

Only this time, it will be all electric with semi-self-driving capability.

And in a strange twist, ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, volkswagen, microbus

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Volkswagen’s comeback will be electric

Volkswagen microbus toy being held on the beach

So even though the microbus won’t be released until 2022, I decided to find out how feasible it would really be to go electric.

Key Points

  • Volkswagen is bringing the microbus back.
  • This time it will be all electric.
  • Getting an electric vehicle can have some perks and challenges. 

Did you hear that Volkswagen is bringing the microbus back?

Only this time, it will be all electric with semi-self-driving capability.

And in a strange twist, it’s really appealing to surfer dudes and middle-aged moms.

When I saw the story, I immediately started to dream about my future life as a microbus owner. We’d haul bikes and skis around for endless outdoor adventures. My daughters would name it after a cartoon character like Blaze, and I’d yell “everybody load up. Blaze is ready for some speed!”

But then I realized that if it’s all electric, I wouldn’t even know how to plan a trip to make sure I had enough charge to make it across my mostly rural state.

So even though the microbus won’t be released until 2022, I decided to find out how feasible it would really be to go electric.

Here’s what I found out:

  1. On road trips, map out your next charge. The Department of Energy recommends using this link to find fueling stations. The good news? It’s a nice tool. The bad news? The charging stations offered are pretty slim along my usual road trip routes. Even with the microbus’s 270-mile range, I might be pushing it to make it to the next public charging station. But as electric vehicles grow in popularity, by 2022, hopefully there will be more charging station options.
  2. Be good to your battery. You can make your battery last a little longer by easing up on the use of things like the A/C, entertainment centers and other accessories. But because I’m driving a microbus, I don’t need an A/C because clearly I’m already very cool. 
  3. Enjoy the perks. Of course there will be the obvious perks of ultimate hipness (Is that a California surfer or a Midwestern mother of two wearing mom jeans? Hard to tell.). But there are other perks that come with owning an electric vehicle. Some states let you drive in the carpool lane, even if you’re all alone. Some stadiums and other major destinations give electric vehicles primo parking spots. An extra perk for the microbus is that the batteries and electric engine are under the floor of the bus, making the interior more spacious. That frees up space for surf boards or, say, five ballet costumes for one spring dance recital.
  4. Consider the costs. To see what you’ll save on your fuel costs by using an electric vehicle instead of a gas-powered one, check out this link that calculates your cost per eGallon,. According to the Department of Energy, the price of an eGallon tells consumers how much it costs to drive an EV the same distance you could go on a gallon of unleaded gasoline in a similar car.

I’ll have to dream about the Volkswagen microbus for a few more years. Until then, hang 10. … See? I’m getting cooler just thinking about owning it.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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These undercover charging stations could crack the case for EVs

In true summer blockbuster form, undercover cops are often the cinematic heroes.

But this summer, there’s a new star to cheer for.

The undercover charging station.

You ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, Grid, Charging Stations

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These undercover charging stations could crack the case for EVs

Blueprints of an electric vehicle at a charging station

So, the company developed a small charger. It’s so small that it can be installed into everyday things that are already in a community.

Key Points

  • New technology might make electric vehicle charging stations cheaper to install.
  • Using existing structures cuts down on costs and makes stations more accessible.
  • They also use a slow charge, which will help level out electric demand on the grid. 

In true summer blockbuster form, undercover cops are often the cinematic heroes.

But this summer, there’s a new star to cheer for.

The undercover charging station.

You read that right: Charging. Station.

German startup company Ubitricity is coming up with solutions to make electric vehicle charging stations cheaper to install and easier on the power grid.

So, the company developed a small charger. It’s so small that it can be installed into everyday things that are already in a community.

For instance, London just installed 82 of the chargers into streetlights. These chargers are cheaper to install since they rely on existing structures instead of having to build a complete charging station from the ground up.

These small devices offer electric vehicle owners who live in urban areas a place to charge up if they don’t have a garage or an accessible outlet at home.

A vehicle would generally need to be plugged in overnight to fill the battery using the pint-size stations. But that might actually be a good thing for the electric grid.

Big spikes in electric demand from quick chargers can strain the grid. These low-power charging stations help avoid those spikes and would generally use electricity at low-use times, like in middle of the night.

There aren’t any undercover street light charging stations in the U.S. yet (that we know of anyway, but, you know, they are undercover, so we could be wrong). The company is hoping to expand to cities in the U.S. soon. And that’s a plotline worth seeing.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Car talk: Electric vehicles in news

Electric vehicles are making more news than a Kardashian sister this month. Here’s a roundup of the biggest headlines.

Electric vehicles are going to take over the auto ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles

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Car talk: Electric vehicles in news

Line of electric vehicles all charging

Bloomberg New Energy Finance released a report that predicts electric vehicles will start to cost the same as their conventional car counterparts by about 2025 thanks to price drops for lithium-ion batteries.

Key Points

  • Electric vehicles are all over the news.
  • Volvo seems amped up on electric, and Tesla’s Model 3 is here.
  • A new report is more optimistic about electric vehicles than ever before. 

Electric vehicles are making more news than a Kardashian sister this month. Here’s a roundup of the biggest headlines.

Electric vehicles are going to take over the auto industry — Bloomberg New Energy Finance released a report that predicts electric vehicles will start to cost the same as their conventional car counterparts by about 2025 thanks to price drops for lithium-ion batteries. The authors expect electric vehicles to account for more than half of all new car sales by 2040. Read an interesting article about it from Fast Company here, and see the full report here.

Volvo is doubling down on electric — The Swedish automaker recently announced that starting in 2019, every car it manufactures will be electrified in some capacity. It really charged some people up. Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson called it “the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car.” Read more about it from Popular Mechanics here. Some critics let sparks fly and accused Volvo’s PR peeps of going into overdrive since the company would have had to do something like this to meet European emissions requirements anyway. Read a good breakdown of what Volvo’s announcement means for the industry here.

Elon Musk got a new car — And it’s not just any car. It’s the first Tesla Model 3. Thirty more drivers will do the Electric Slide at a big launch party on July 28, and then production on the $35,000 electric vehicle will ramp up in the fall and winter. According to Bloomberg, if Tesla meets its targets, it will build more battery-powered cars next year than all of the world’s automakers combined in 2016. Read more here.

And now you’re “plugged in” to the electric car industry.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Could the Chevrolet Bolt zap your concerns about electric vehicles?

There’re a lot of reasons electric vehicles accounted for only 1 percent of all new car sales last year. For instance, they tend to be spendy, and consumers worry about running ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, alternative fuel

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Could the Chevrolet Bolt zap your concerns about electric vehicles?

Chevrolet Bolt

The Bolt costs $30,000, after the $7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit. And it has a 238-mile range.

Key Points

  • Chevrolet hopes its new Bolt EV will be a game changer.
  • It has a longer range and cheaper price tag than previous models.
  • Electric vehicles accounted for 1 percent of all new car sales last year.

There’re a lot of reasons electric vehicles accounted for only 1 percent of all new car sales last year. For instance, they tend to be spendy, and consumers worry about running out of battery without a charging station nearby.

Chevrolet is hoping the new Bolt EV will be the answer.

The Bolt costs $30,000, after the $7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit. And it has a 238-mile range. That range and price combo may be just what consumers are looking for. The only other electric vehicle with that kind of range is the Tesla, which costs upwards of $70,000.

But it’s not all rosy for the future of EVs. There is concern that that $7,500 tax credit could disappear with the new tax bill, and that would significantly impact how many households can afford a new electric vehicle.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, it would be five to 10 years before electric cars were price competitive with gas-powered vehicles without the subsidy.

“Today, with incentives, you’re very close to that point,” Simon Mui with the Natura Resources Defense Council told NPR. “Consumers that are charging on electricity, if they charge off-peak, they're basically paying a buck a gallon equivalent. So they're seeing much lower fuel bills overall.”

According to NPR, there are now some 30 models of electric and plug-in hybrid cars available in the U.S.

What would it take for you to make the switch to an electric vehicle? What price point is affordable for you? Is 238 the magic miles number to make you comfortable with a vehicle’s range?


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Could electric vehicle charging stations make your energy cheaper?

I splurged and bought a spendy pair of new jeans recently. They were the most comfortable and stylish pants I had ever tried on. But even so, I had a hard time convincing myself ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, energy costs, energy grid

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Could electric vehicle charging stations make your energy cheaper?

Electric vehicle charging station this way

To get more use out of the grid, [Kansas City Power & Light] decided to change the equation by installing 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations.

Key Points

  • Kansas City Power & Light is building electric vehicle charging stations.
  • The utility hopes to get more use out of its underused grid.
  • The infrastructure is already paid for, so increasing use could drive down the per-unit cost of electricity. 

I splurged and bought a spendy pair of new jeans recently. They were the most comfortable and stylish pants I had ever tried on. But even so, I had a hard time convincing myself the purchase was worth it.

To justify my splurge, I decided to wear them every day. That way, when I average it out, the cost of the jeans per use would actually be very low.

For the sake of easy math, let’s say the jeans cost $200. If I only wore them 20 times this year, they would cost $10 per use. But if I wear them 365 times this year, it’s only $0.55 per use.

Good thing I really love these pants.

Kansas City Power & Light is using a similar approach to make electricity more affordable for its customers. The infrastructure the utility uses to deliver electricity to its customers is already paid for. But it was created to support the huge energy demand on the hottest summer day when everyone has their air conditioners running on full blast.

Since the temperatures only spike a few times a year, the grid is underused about 80 percent of the time.

To get more use out of the grid, the company decided to change the equation by installing 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations. If enough customers used a lot more energy, it could drive down the cost per unit of electricity, similar to how wearing my pants more often brings down the cost per wear.

“When you turn on an additional TV in your home, that’s not enough to change that equation,” said Chuck Caisley, KCP&L’s vice president for marketing and public affairs in an interview with NPR’s “All Tech Considered.” “But when you talk about a segment [the auto industry] that’s as much as 25 to 30 percent of the entire economy, and electrifying it, you’re talking about a significant amount of increased electricity use, which means we’re now using that infrastructure that customers have paid for so much more efficiently."

Two years into the project, KC&L has installed 850 of its promised 1,000 charging stations.

 It’s too early to tell if this will actually drive down the unit costs for customers, but I’ll check back in to see how it goes and keep you updated.

Now I just need to figure out when I’m going to wash these jeans.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Electric vehicles: The low talkers of the auto industry

Low talkers. You know, the people you can never understand because they speak so softly. Here’s an official definition according to the highly reputable website, theseinfelddictionary.com:

low-talker ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, low talkers, pedestrian safety

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Electric vehicles: The low talkers of the auto industry

Pedestrian narrowly avoids colliding with car

U.S. road safety regulators decided that electric vehicles must be louder by 2019 to be safer for pedestrians. The regulation applies to pure electric and hybrid vehicles. They must make noise when cruising at speeds under 19 mph.

Key Points

  • Electric vehicles are very quiet.
  • This can be a selling point for some but a danger to pedestrians.
  • U.S. road safety regulators are requiring all electric vehicles to make noise by 2019. 

Low talkers. You know, the people you can never understand because they speak so softly. Here’s an official definition according to the highly reputable website, theseinfelddictionary.com:

low-talker – (related terms: close talker, high talker, puffy shirt) 1. a person who talks in a low, soft voice. 2. nobody hears anything when a low talker speaks. 3. may cause the listener to accidentally nod their head and say “yes” and “oh, sure” and end up wearing a funny/puffy shirt 4. quote: “She’s one of those low-talkers. You can’t hear a word she’s saying! You’re always going ‘excuse me’, what was that?” — Jerry

Apparently the U.S. government doesn’t want to take any chances of accidentally wearing a puffy shirt.

U.S. road safety regulators decided that electric vehicles must be louder by 2019 to be safer for pedestrians.

The regulation applies to pure electric and hybrid vehicles. They must make noise when cruising at speeds under 19 mph. Apparently, that’s the magic number when they get too quiet. Any louder and they make noise from the wind and road.

Tesla seems to already have plans to start including pedestrian speakers that beam sound directly to people in the car’s path. Toyota and Nissan already offer an optional noisemaker with their electric vehicles.

Rumor has it that when auto makers heard about the new regulation, they nodded their heads and said, “oh, sure.” 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Plug into the future

Are electric vehicles the wave of the future or just a niche market?

It all depends on your driving habits. For your daily commute and short trips, an electric vehicle ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, Charging Stations

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Plug into the future

BHP Chevy Volt

EVs: Charge your car and head out for your daily commute

Key Points

An electric vehicle could be right for you.

EV can have ranges up to 265 miles.

Over 12,000 charging stations nationwide

Can charge to 80% capacity in approx. 30 minutes.

Are electric vehicles the wave of the future or just a niche market?

It all depends on your driving habits. For your daily commute and short trips, an electric vehicle can get you there quietly and pollution free.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 10 percent of all daily car trips are less than one mile, 95 percent cover less than 30 miles and 99 percent under 70 miles. And for those kinds of journeys, an electric vehicle that relies solely on an outlet for recharging is a solid alternative to diesel- or gasoline-powered vehicles.

The EV battery range has improved in the past few years. The 30- to 40-mile electric range of the Chevrolet Volt was followed by the 75-mile range of the Nissan Leaf. The new Toyota RAV4 EV has a tested range of 125 miles. And Tesla recently rolled out two high-end EV models with ranges of 265 miles.

You can charge an electric vehicle, right in your garage, from a standard 120V outlet. If you decide to install a 240V line (like the kind used for a clothes dryer) and charging station, you can charge your electric vehicle in as little as four hours.

There also are now more than 12,000 charging stations nationwide, and that number is growing. Fast-charge technology allows some EVs to charge to about 80 percent of capacity in about 30 minutes.

As EVs reach price parity with internal combustion cars, it will make more sense to go with an EV, as electricity costs are far less than gasoline in a cost-per-mile comparison.

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