Vehicle fleets across the United States are transitioning from internal combustion engine (ICE) to electric vehicles, and that includes school bus fleets. The World Resources Institute, a sustainability advocacy group, says at the end of the second quarter in 2023, there were just under 6,000 committed electric school buses in the United States. This number includes buses that have been awarded, ordered, delivered, or are already in operation. Here’s what you need to know about why students need EV school buses and how to get started at your public or private school.
Why electric school buses are needed
The best reason to switch from ICE school buses to electric school buses can be summed up in just two words: child wellness.
Many school districts use diesel buses for fuel efficiency, but even diesel exhaust was classified as a known carcinogen to humans in 2012. The National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), an institute of the National Institutes of Health, notes that Traffic-Related Air Pollution (TRAP) “has most of the elements of human-made air pollution: ground-level ozone, various forms of carbon, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and fine particulate matter.” NIEHS goes on to say that air pollution is also linked to cancers, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and other disorders.
What makes school bus fumes especially dangerous is that they often end up making their way into the vehicle cabins, schoolyards and playgrounds, and residential neighborhoods. Especially in cities, children may be unable to escape harmful vehicle fumes. TRAP can also stunt students’ cognitive abilities and alter their brain structure.
What about electric buses?
Electric school buses have no tailpipe emissions, so students are not directly exposed to harmful vehicle fumes when on or near the bus. Depending on how the electricity to charge them is produced, electric school buses may still have well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions, but even these emissions will disappear as more utility companies switch to renewable energy.
Eliminating ICE buses will go a long way toward making schools healthier for students. Fortunately, there are funding programs in place to help school boards transition away from ICE buses and help their students live healthier lives.
Funding help for transitioning school bus fleets
The United States federal government is supporting the transition to electric school buses through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program (CSB), which disperses funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Between 2022 and 2026, the CSB will distribute $5 billion to replace existing school buses with zero- or low-emission models. The CSB has two methods of funding: Rebates and Grants.
In its first year of operation, 2022, the CSB distributed $965 million to fund school bus replacements at almost 400 schools via rebate funding. The EPA is expecting to award at least another $500 million in funding under the 2023 CSB rebate program and a further $400 million via grant funding. Currently, the EPA is accepting applications to the 2023 CSB Rebate Program until Jan. 31st, 2024 at 4pm ET.
Local funding for electric school buses
Federal government agencies are not the only ones providing funding for electric school buses. Individual states and electric utilities also have their own funding programs for transitioning school bus fleets. For example, Nevada Energy provides a 75% rebate of the cost of electric school buses and eligible chargers with its Electric School Bus Incentives program.
You can find state-level electric school bus funding programs using the Alternative Fuels Data Center search tool. Simply click on the state you are inquiring about and it will provide you with an overview of the various electric vehicle incentives in that state.
The Electric School Bus Initiative, an organization that advocates for the electrification of America’s school bus fleets, also has information and resources for school boards and other educational groups that want to transition from diesel to electric buses.
Finally, local utilities may offer programs that can reduce the costs of your program. One upcoming technology, Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G or VTG), may allow electric bus fleets to send electricity back to the utility grid during peak energy events. While this technology is still in development, fleet managers may soon be able to reduce their electrical bill by joining a V2G school bus program (or joining their utility’s demand response program).
Types of chargers needed for school bus fleets
Every electric school bus fleet requires EV chargers, but what do you need for an electric bus fleet?
Depending on the vehicle and station amperage, Level 2 chargers can charge a vehicle battery from four to eight hours, while a DCFC can charge a battery in under an hour. The tradeoff is in the budget: while faster, DC fast chargers require more power and are more expensive to install. Having a combination of both types of chargers allows bus fleets to use Level 2 chargers to recharge at night or during the school day, and to reserve the DCFC for times when a faster charge is needed.
Switching to electric school buses from diesel buses is important to ensure the health and safety of students across the country. Electric school buses do not emit harmful greenhouse gas emissions, so their adoption supports healthier air. Ready to get started? Ask your Blink Charging sales manager how to start planning your electric school bus fleet.