When they picture an EV, most people think of cars, rarely trucks, and seldom buses. But electric school buses promise to be the next wave of green technology for schools, aiming to improve pollution standards and safety standards, not only for the environment but for the children who ride them.
Electric school buses are still a rare sight. With the current well-known risks to public health, the fact that school bus emissions often collect inside the vehicle has influenced parents and electric vehicle companies to urge changes.
The current battleground over electric buses, and children’s health and safety standards, is California. Bobby Monacella, a mother of two, spoke to Scientific American after hearing pollution levels inside the bus can be ten times higher than outside. “’ They’re sitting on the bus for over an hour a day. When you learn that the emissions are concentrated inside the bus, it’s scary,’ said Monacella, who volunteers with the climate advocacy group Mothers Out Front.”
The upfront cost of the electric buses is 3X higher than that of ICE buses, so only the wealthiest communities can start to replace their fleets. Federal and state infrastructure is needed in most areas, especially in low-income neighborhoods, where children already deal with higher levels of environmental pollutants.
Biden’s $174 billion infrastructure plan intended 20% of America’s school bus fleet to be electric; however, in reality, $2.5 billion will go to electric school buses, and the same amount to “lower emissions” buses, which are not electric.
“A study by Science Direct in the Economics of Education Review showed that changing to electric buses positively influenced children’s respiratory health and even their grades. Students showed “significant test score gains in English and smaller gains in math” when diesel-fueled buses are swapped for electric.
Others are quick to point out that replacing fleets with EV buses will be a financial win in the long run. According to Electrek, “While the exact cost of each bus is unknown, the commission does estimate that “schools will save nearly $120,000 in fuel and maintenance costs per bus over 20 years. Some estimates have noted that electric school buses tend to cost about $120,000 more than diesel buses — if that’s the case here, the price will be equal in the end, with added health benefits.”
States Making Changes Now
California and Virginia are leading the way to bring electric buses to schools. To alleviate greenhouse gases, “the new buses will eliminate nearly 57,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, and nearly 550 pounds of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions annually,” according to Electrek.
The California Energy Commission has awarded over $70 million to schools to replace over 200 buses, while a total of $89.8 million has been earmarked for future EV buses in 26 California counties.
In conjunction with Virginia Dominion Energy, Virginia Public Schools will roll out an initial launch of 50 electric buses. According to Clean Technica, these buses are ready to go into operation this year! With a plan to release 200 buses per year for the next five years, they aim for 100% EV buses by 2030.
How Can Buses Be Charged?
Buses will need Level 2 or faster chargers. According to Blue Bird electric buses, buses take approximately 8 hours to charge fully. Buses are always parked at the school overnight and can easily be charged for 8 hours or more. A single charge will last 120 miles, much further, of course, then any bus route, even in the rural areas.
Blink Charging is excited that the benefits of EVs are coming to school buses, which are better for the environment and safer for the children who ride them.