Driving toward nationwide electric school bus deployment

The movement to electrify America’s school buses is gaining speed.

Erik Voss | TPIN

The movement to electrify America’s school buses is gaining speed.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published its second Clean School Bus Report, showcasing the progress made in replacing existing diesel school buses with clean and zero-emissions school buses. Last year, nearly 2,000 school districts applied for funding to replace old diesel buses through the Clean School Bus Program, totaling nearly $4 billion in requests. The overwhelming demand prompted the EPA to almost double the rebate funding available, increasing it from $500 million to nearly $1 billion.

In October 2022, 415 rebate applications were selected for funding, which will replace around 2,500 diesel buses. Although propane and natural gas buses can also qualify for funding through the Clean School Bus Program, 95% of the buses selected for funding are zero-emissions electric.

These clean school buses are starting to roll out across the country, and EPA Administrator Micheal Regan recently celebrated the deployment of two such school buses in Alma, Kansas. The buses were delivered to the rural school district of Wabaunsee USD 329 in December 2022. 

“We are moving faster than ever to accelerate the transition to electric and low-emission school buses,” said Regan at the celebration event. “New electric school buses in rural school districts like Wabaunsee USD 329 are a shining example of what we can accomplish when we invest in America.” 

With nearly 500,000 school buses in the U.S., 95% of which run on diesel fuel, it’s crucial that state governments also take a leadership role in electrifying the nation’s school bus fleet.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has proposed to spend $150 million on clean electric school buses, citing the health benefits for students and long-term savings in operating and maintenance costs as her primary motivations. The governor hopes this funding will result in 500 zero-emissions buses to Michigan school districts, though the availability of the money ultimately depends on the decision of state legislators.

Funding the transition to electric vehicles is only part of the challenge. Ensuring that electric utility providers are ready to support school bus electrification is also essential. During the event in Kansas, Regan announced a new pledge to promote collaboration between school districts and electricity providers. Through this pledge, Edison Electric Institute members and Beneficial Electrification League partners have committed to work with the EPA and school districts to facilitate communication, provide technical support and assistance, and increase funding and deployment for electric school buses.

Laura Davis
Laura Davis

Former Transform Transportation, Advocate, PIRG


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