An electric bus parked near Winthrop Middle School on Friday. The district has been unable to use two electric buses it received this year because of faulty windshields. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

WINTHROP – Two of the four electric school buses Winthrop received this year through the Maine Clean School Bus Program never hit the road because of malfunctions that made them unsafe to drive.

Winthrop is one of three school districts that reported “leaky windshields” on new electric buses from the Canadian-based Lion Electric Co.

Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said when it rains, the windshields let in water and make the glass seem like it’s “not securely in place.”

“Every time there is precipitation, they leak. Every time. And as you can imagine, electricity and water do not mix well and we can’t take the chance if it’s leaking. We just can’t drive it,” he said. 

The Maine Department of Education said it is aware of the issue and that the Yarmouth School Department and the Vinalhaven School have also reported problems with the windshields of some of their electric buses.

Winthrop, which received four electric buses in September, is still waiting for repairs and instructions from Lion Electric Co. on how to fix the issue. The DOE is working with Hodgkin to figure out why it is taking so long to repair them.


Yarmouth’s Superintendent Andrew Dolloff said two of the electric buses his district received had leaky windshields, but that the issue was fixed quickly for them because a Lion Electric technician was in the area at the time they discovered the problem.

“We did have windshield seals that were leaking when we first received the buses,” Dolloff said. “Those leaks were repaired a few months ago and have been OK since that time. In general, Lion is struggling to provide the technicians needed to address typical maintenance issues, causing e-buses to be out of service longer than would be the norm for diesel buses with similar issues.”

Several Maine school districts received electric buses as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program. The program provides up to $5 billion to districts across the country for the purchase of zero-emission buses and chargers. The initiative is meant to help meet the agency’s goal of making 75% of the public school bus fleet electric by 2035.

When the program was first announced in October 2022, officials from districts across central Maine raised questions about how effective the buses would be. On a full charge, the buses can travel around 150 miles — which some bus routes in rural central Maine come close to.  

Six electric school buses were awarded in central Maine — four in Winthrop and two in Somerville-based Regional School Unit 12 — and 28 electric buses were sent to other parts of the state. School districts must return one diesel school bus per electric bus. 

It is unclear how widespread the problem with leaky windshields is, and Lion Electric Co. did not respond to a request for comment. The company sent out a recall in October on the 2024-25 LionC School Buses for an issue with the vehicle’s brakes. 


RSU 12 Superintendent Howie Tuttle said the district has not received its electric buses yet but expects delivery in March or April 2024. Those will come from Thomas Built Electric Buses, which are supplied by W. C. Cressey & Son Inc. in Kennebunk.

While Winthrop waits for repairs, Lion Electric Co. is paying $15,000 for the district’s transportation department to rent two diesel school buses. The district has nine buses in total.

When the electric buses work, Hodgkin said the bus drivers “really enjoy them” and that they are “calming for the kids” because of how quiet they are.

“All this is a long-winded way to say we see the potential in them being amazing, but there has been a lot of frustration,” Hodgkin said. “We have tried really hard to be positive, but as these issues have dragged on, here we are in December, and two buses are still not working and it’s harder and harder to be positive.” 

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