Electric school buses have become a hot commodity for school districts and parents. Some states have promised to invest in school bus electrification within the next five years, while others have not yet shown interest. EV buses cost much less to maintain and fuel. Replacing multiple buses can represent significant long-term savings for school districts. So are electric school buses on the horizon? And what can parents expect?
What Electric School Buses Mean to Different Districts
Advantages of electric buses include zero tailpipe emissions, the ability to store power in buses for emergency use, inexpensive electric re-fueling, and little or no regular maintenance. According to Electrik, “EV buses will eliminate nearly 57,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, and nearly 550 pounds of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions annually.”
Canary Media stated, “Billions of dollars of federal and state grants and incentives are flowing to U.S. school districts to help them electrify their fleets”. School districts are excited about replacing their gas-guzzling, noisy buses with quiet, emissions-free models.
While electric school buses are a popular discussion topic for school administrators and parents, many school districts still struggle with affordability. Manufacturer Thomas Built and Highland Fleets fleet services are among those helping school districts finance their own electric fleets.
Highland has promised to provide Massachusetts with electric school bus subscriptions on par with diesel prices through 2025. Maryland already leased 326 buses from Highland. Director of Transportation of Montgomery Public Schools in Maryland, Todd Watkins, placed the largest order for electric school buses to date in 2021. The reception was positive. “It’s been from the entire school bus industry, from the electric vehicle industry, from the environmental industry — I mean, everybody has just been pleasantly overwhelmed by this decision…” Watkins says. “I had no idea what kind of ripple this would make through all of those worlds.” Highland also provides an information sheet for school districts to compare pricing, including a 60% fuel savings with EV buses. Other school districts are now following suit.
Big Wins for Electric School Buses
Just this month New York Governor Kathy Hochul agreed with legislators on a $220 billion state budget that plans to make the state’s 47,000 school buses 100% electric by 2035. Many partners, stakeholders, and allies played a role in advancing this policy which serves as a clear benchmark for other states looking to fully electrify their school bus fleet.
Thomas Built points out, “Electric school buses can serve as versatile battery storage units, too. Thanks to V2G technology, they can be used to sell excess electricity back to a utility company or provider, creating an additional revenue stream for schools.” Electric school buses are still in the minority though. With over half a million school buses in the country, under 0.2% are currently electric. That may soon be changing. Pressure is coming from school districts, politicians, and parents who have learned how dangerous the fumes from school buses can be.
Senators Alex Padilla and Raphael Warnok are among those trying to pass the Clean Commute for Kids Act. “Children in Georgia and across America should be able to get to and from school each day without breathing polluted air, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated challenges for children already managing respiratory problems,” said Senator Warnock.
Electric school buses are on the horizon, but parents and concerned community members can bring them to school faster by getting involved. Electric school buses are the next leap, not only in saving money and preventing emissions but also, in children’s health.