Electric School Buses Can Reduce Kids’ Exposure to Toxic Fumes

Media Contacts
Jeff Robinson

New report demonstrates the public health benefits of electric school buses

U.S. PIRG Education Fund

If the U.S. transitioned its entire fleet of 480,000 school buses to all-electric vehicles, it could significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions each year and reduce the toxic air pollution to which schoolchildren are directly exposed. A new report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research & Policy Center, and Frontier Group, “Electric Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air,” shows that a full transition to electric school buses in the U.S. could avoid an average of 5.3 million tons of climate-altering pollution each year — the equivalent of taking a million cars off the road.

“When we put our kids on a school bus, we try to ignore the fumes, because we rely on these buses for safe transportation,” said Jeff Robinson, director of U.S. PIRG’s transportation program. “But our research shows that whether they’re boarding the bus or on the bus, kids are being exposed to toxic air in high concentrations – and at the same time, diesel pollution contributes to global warming. We have the technology to avoid this, so why wouldn’t we?”

Approximately 95 percent of U.S. school buses run on diesel, even though numerous studies have shown that inhaling diesel exhaust can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions such as asthma. The negative effects are especially pronounced in children. The good news is that all-electric buses are available and ready to roll, and they’re cleaner, healthier and often cheaper for school districts and bus contractors to run in the long-term. And with zero tailpipe emissions, electric school buses can significantly reduce our kids’ exposure to toxic fumes.

“Pollution from school buses is harming our children’s health and contributing excessively to global warming,” said Andrea McGimsey, Environment America Global Warming Director. “Electrifying our buses is a common-sense solution for communities across the nation.”

“Diesel threatens children’s well-being by contributing to a number of health concerns, including asthma and cancer. Beyond that, burning diesel threatens their future,” said Alana Miller, policy analyst at Frontier Group and coauthor of the report. “Our report shows that all-electric school buses are an increasingly viable solution.”

The report identifies several ways states, school districts, and bus contractors can pay for the transition to electric school buses, including the Volkswagen Settlement funds, state and federal grants, and utility investments. States across the country receiving billions of dollars as part of the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” settlement. A portion of that money could be used to purchase all-electric school buses and charging infrastructure.

“By transitioning from dirty fossil-fuels to clean electricity, the humble school bus can fully deliver on its promise to get our kids to and from school safely, without compromising their future,” said Robinson.