The Wheels on an Electric Bus Need to Be Chocked and Other Things I Learned Today

Chinatopix via AP

Until I hit a Marine Corps flightline, I had no idea what "chocks" were unless connected in a phrase to "Full O' Nuts."

What can I say? I was a veritable babe in the north Jersey woods.


For those who haven't been introduced to "chocks," this is what they are (watch what the guys pull from around the wheels):

Mechanics use them in garages, too.

Aircraft chocks are small wedges triangular in shape placed in front of and behind the aircraft's wheels lightly in contact with the tyre to prevent an aircraft from moving when parked.

The wheel chocks are commonly used to prevent an aircraft from accidentally rolling and colliding with other aircraft and damaging its parts, protecting the ground crew from harm during handling operations and protecting nearby infrastructure.

"Pulling chocks" enters your everyday lexicon as a phrase meaning "we're outta here" after working around airplanes enough. Every last squadron Marine I know, no matter how old and salty, still says it.

Never did I relate it to school buses, though, but I am learning that it's a thing in many states. Buses are heavy, so it does make sense. Some state regs are just for inspections or some if the bus is parked on a grade or out of the bus yard with the driver gone.

Even parking a school bus, particularly an expensive green electric one, is no longer as simple as "park," parking brake, and turning off the key.

Apparently, if you forget to throw chocks around the wheels, these buggers will roll on you. And that's just for starters.


What a bargain electric buses are turning out to be.


Maine’s Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (CD-01) on Wednesday applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for announcing a $7.7 million round of grants for Maine schools to purchase electric school buses.

...However, the electric school buses in Maine that have already been purchased under this program have been plagued with mechanical failures and dangerous malfunctions, leading to several of the “zero-emission” buses being pulled off the road.

In December, Winthrop Public Schools reported that they were struggling to keep their fleet of four electric school buses on the road due to water leak issues and heating system failures — just weeks after they were purchased.

Leaky windshields letting water pour into an all-electric vehicle - sounds like a manufacturing issue.

The state police unit that does safety inspections had themselves quite a time writing up violations on the new buses.

...Last summer, the Maine State Police Vehicle Inspection Unit noted a number of problems with the electric buses, from loose body rivets and an inoperative driver’s auxiliary fan to a power steering hose that rubbed on a bracket and a malfunctioning rear emergency door check.

Vinalhaven’s electric school buses have also been identified as having side body damage in the form of broken rivets and a lack of wheel chocks, which are blocks that prevent the bus from rolling when parked.


A "lack of wheel chocks."

Now, like I said, I quickly dug through several states' school bus manuals and I see chocks mentioned when the bus is undergoing an inspection - which makes perfect sense. Also the "parked on a grade" thing. New Hampshire is school bus chock happy, which is probably prudent.

When you consider electric buses are weighing in at almost SIX tons more [Beege: I fixed the #mathz] than your average 72-passenger diesel school bus?

Chocks might be pretty damn important.

A lot of those considerations came into play when New York Governor Kathy Daffy Hochul announced she was dumping $100M into electric school buses for her state. The practical side of the upstate people was triggered.


...The Empire Center For Public Policy estimates the cost shift to an all-electric school bus fleet between $8 billion and $15.25 billion. Meanwhile, 2025 budget projections already predict a state deficit.

...Then there’s the cost of new infrastructure, like charging stations.

Electric vehicle are heavier — a typical 72-passenger diesel school bus weighs 24,300 pounds and a 72-passenger electric bus weighs 36,000 pounds. That means more wear and tear on municipal and state roads, Weber said.

Electric vehicle ranges are also shorter. Sanchez said the district wasn't sure if the buses would last entire routes under the current system the district uses.

And electric vehicles are less efficient in cold weather like upstate New York experiences in winter, critics say.


But never mind that, say the cultists. Who cares if the windshields leak, the brakes seize, or the kindergarten bus runs out of charge when it's -15°F? Hell, those buses didn't have heat most of the time anyway. Tell those kids to toughen up!


Last year, Vermont seemed to have some real range issues with its modern electric marvels. 

I don't know that I'd be all hep to have my kid on one in the winter. I mean, they can't carry a 60 lb backpack full of books and a ruck of survival gear just in case the bus Schlitzes the bed on a frosty mountain road.

New electric school buses lose up to 80% range in winter

New electric school buses cost roughly double their diesel-powered counterparts upfront and they lose up to 80% of their range in cold temperatures, the Vermont Electric School and Transit Bus Pilot Program Report indicates.

...Some brands – especially the Blue Bird model – seemed to have more serious issues than others with performance in cold temperatures. All of them had issues with charging equipment.

It states, “Some brands performed well in winter, and some failed to perform at all. Among the buses that were in-service in the winter, some buses performed better than others. Charging equipment performance remained a persistent issue for all sites year-round.”

...“As temperatures dropped, vehicle range reduced in a relatively linear manner. At zero degrees Fahrenheit, the Lion bus ranges had dropped off by 30-40% of the nominal range advertised by the manufacturer. For Blue Bird buses, the range loss at zero degrees was closer to 80%,” it states.



...Nonetheless, the report by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) indicates that there is serious consideration to move forward.

“It is feasible to operate electric school and transit buses in Vermont even in cold weather and varied terrain,” the report claims.


No diesel fumes makes everything better! 

...Canadian-based company Lion Electric, the supplier of Maine’s electric school buses, issued a recall in October 2023 for certain 2024-2025 LionC model School Buses, due to incorrectly installed anti-lock brake systems and rear wheel speed sensors.

The recall was issued as a result of reported cases in early May 2023 of school buses suffering rear wheel lockup in a hard braking situation.

“Maine students, families, and educators rely on school buses for safety and efficiency, but diesel exhaust from existing fleets is damaging to air quality, our environment, and to human health—especially for children,” Pingree said in her Wednesday statement. “As a stalwart supporter of clean energy, I am overjoyed to see millions of dollars in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments coming to Maine schools through the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program to make our communities safer and healthier.


Ah, the wonders of the renewable age. Is there anything it can't ruin?

And that question is strictly rhetorical because the answer is no. 

I'm telling you - these people have chocks in their heads.

November, baby.

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