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Why Schools Should Electrify Their Bus Fleets

Posted 09/12/2023

The transition away from gasoline and diesel vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) is going full throttle in the United States, and that includes the iconic yellow school bus. Thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s (IIJA), there is $5 billion available in funding for clean school buses. Even with a flurry of activity and available funding, though, only about 1% of school buses in the country are currently electric (matching the approximate percentage of cars and light duty trucks on the road that are electric). Here are several reasons for school districts to switch to electric buses.

Empowering clean transportation for children

We’ll start with the most important reason; electric school buses are healthier for the children. Roughly half a million school buses transport about 20 million students each school day in the United States, and nearly all those buses currently run on diesel. While it’s obvious that the internal combustion engine vehicles are polluting the air outside the buses, what you may not know is that numerous studies show that the pollution from the burning diesel regularly makes its way into the buses. Numerous studies compiled by the Environmental Defense Fund show that in addition to harming the community, diesel school buses also “self-pollute” with emissions entering the bus cabin, to the point that “the interior cabin of a diesel bus is five times higher” than outside the bus. Traffic-Related Air Pollution (TRAP), which includes ozone, noxious gases (such as carbon dioxide CO2, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides such as NOx and SOx), and particulate matter (such as PM2.5), has been shown to adversely affect brain development in children and can be linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and some neurological diseases. In addition, other studies have shown that increases in PM2.5, NO2, and ozone were associated with lower test scores that were “equivalent to the effects of short-term reductions of thousands of dollars in district median household income.” And as a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found, children who moved “downwind” from a highway experienced “decreases in test scores, more behavioral incidents, and more absences, relative to when they transition to an upwind school.” As it turns out, the very gasoline or diesel vehicles children use to go to school hamper their learning. By switching to electric school buses and encouraging EV adoption in the community, schools can reduce air pollution and create a healthier environment for children to learn.

Reducing vehicle emissions

Electric school buses, and their electric car and truck cousins, produce no tailpipe emissions, which is a big step in lowering air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. If an EV is charged with electricity that is produced by burning fossil fuel such as coal or natural gas, there are still greenhouse gas emissions associated with running the vehicle. However, the growth in renewable energy sources –  like solar, hydro and wind power – across the United States is also helping to eliminate emissions associated with the charging of EVs. The more vehicles that switch to running on electricity, the better. While school districts may have little control over where their electricity comes from, they do have control over the type of vehicle that transports their students. Switching to electric school buses is the right choice to help cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, and it may help encourage your local government to expand EV charging throughout your city.

Saving fleet vehicle costs

Finally, there are economic benefits to switching to electric school bus fleets. While electric school buses cost more than diesel buses to purchase, the savings in fuel and maintenance costs even out over the lifetime of the bus. According to research on the subject, cost savings can range from about $4,000 to $11,000 per year, per bus, depending on variables including the cost of diesel fuel vs electricity and maintenance costs. In fact, one study found that EV fleet managers could enjoy 75% reduction in maintenance costs after electrifying their fleet!

EV School Bus Case Study: Fontana Unified School District

Blink Charging recently helped the Fontana Unified School District in California transition its school bus fleet from diesel to electric.

View the Case Study


How much funding is available for EV charging at school districts?

Public and private schools have access to many funding options, both federal and state (and possibly even on a municipal level). Here are some of the main programs:

Clean School Bus Program

The Clean School Bus Program, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), disperses IIJA funds via rebates and grants to eligible school districts. Beyond simply paying for school buses, the EPA will also provide funding for administrative costs and even workforce training.

Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program

The US Department of Agriculture’s Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program is open year-round to provide affordable funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas. Knox County R-I School District in Missouri used funding from this program (together with funding from other programs) to help it replace its fleet of diesel buses with electric buses.

State Funding for Electric School Buses

In addition to national programs, many states have their own funding opportunities for helping to transition fleets to electric vehicles. Here are some examples:

If you choose to work with Blink Charging for your school bus fleet transition, we will help you identify all the various funding you may be eligible for and help you complete the necessary forms. For an expanded list of statewide incentives, visit our Commercial Incentives page here.

Cooperative Procurement with Blink’s Sourcewell Contract

Public bids and procurement can always be difficult for municipalities, agencies, and schools. Sourcewell, a Minnesota-based agency, has pre-vetted and pre-negotiated competitive pricing for electric vehicle charging stations and services. Through the power of cooperative purchasing, public entities like government agencies and school divisions can use Blink’s Sourcewell contract to quickly and easily purchase EV charging stations at pre-negotiated rates. Signing up for Sourcewell is free for government agencies, public and private schools/colleges, and nonprofit organizations. Blink Charging’s Sourcewell contract number is: #042221-SEM.

Which are the best chargers for electric school bus fleets?

Because school buses park for most of the day and overnight, and because they generally don’t travel far from the depot, Level 2 chargers like the Series 7 will be sufficient for most school districts. Depending on the vehicle, this high-powered 19.2kW charging station can charge your bus fleet over the course of four to eight hours. Some school districts may also choose to install a Series 9 DCFC for cases where they need a bus to be charged quickly, as DCFCs can charge an EV in under an hour, though be prepared for higher installation costs. With a myriad of funding opportunities and easy public procurement thanks to Sourcewell and major programs like the EPA Clean School Bus program, it’s never been easier for school districts to transition their fleets to clean, zero-emission electric buses. Ready to get started? Contact Blink Charging today to start your school’s fleet transition.

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