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A row of yellow school buses stretches out into the distance.

The big, yellow school bus is an academic icon, transporting millions of students to and from school every day. Traditionally, school buses have run on diesel, which spews dangerous tailpipe emissions that are not only harmful to the environment, but have been linked to childhood asthma and other significant health risks. 

Fortunately, there is a safe solution on the horizon – electric school buses. Electric vehicles (EVs) have dramatically risen in popularity, with more than 10 million EVs sold in 2022. This sustainable option is now being developed for school transportation. By adopting electric school buses, school districts can not only save significantly in operational and maintenance costs, but also provide a safer and healthier experience for students.

The Advantages of Electric School Buses

Across the United States, there are more than 8,675 electric school buses currently in operation across 1,132 school districts. The benefits of electric school buses extend far beyond cost savings, improving the health of students and the community. Below, we explore the four greatest benefits of electrified school bus fleets.

Cost Savings for Schools and Districts

While the upfront investment for electric school buses is quite high, school districts will see substantial cost savings throughout the 15 year lifespan of each bus. Not only will districts eliminate the cost for expensive diesel fuels, but electric buses also significantly reduce maintenance costs. Electric school buses can expect to see more than $100,000 in lifetime expenditure savings, compared to an equivalent diesel bus. 

Graph showing the total cost comparison of EV vs Diesel buses

Healthier Students

A majority of students who rely on the school bus each day come from lower-income communities and are disproportionately exposed to the carcinogenic effects of diesel. For far too long, students of color and students with disabilities have been exposed to diesel exhaust from school buses, leading to an increase in childhood asthma and other cognitive developmental issues. Electric school buses have zero tailpipe emissions, no oil, and no transmission. By adopting electric school buses, districts reduce harmful air pollution dramatically, providing a healthier outcome for at-risk students.

Contributing to a Safer Environment

Beyond supporting a healthier student body, electric school buses also contribute to a much safer and healthier environment. Due to their lack of tailpipe emissions, electric buses account for the lowest levels of greenhouse gas emissions for any school bus type. Furthermore electric buses also are significantly quieter than traditional diesel buses, reducing noise pollution and creating a more peaceful commute.

Supporting a More Resilient Electrical Grid

Vehicle-to-Grid technology enables electric school buses to provide stability, capacity, and emergency power to the grid when not in use. If every school bus currently in operation across the U.S. converted to electric, it would add an additional 60 Gigawatt-hours to the country’s capacity to store electricity. This is a significant added benefit that could result in an additional revenue stream for the district. 

Current Landscape of Electric School Buses in the U.S.

Every day 480,000 school buses bring millions of students to and from school. However, only 1% of this massive fleet accounts for electric school buses. Thankfully, this is primed to change dramatically over the next several years thanks to governmental incentives and rebates. The EPA’s Clean School Bus Rebate Program has awarded more than $900 million towards the widespread adoption of electric school buses. Within the first round of funding, this program has provided 2,300 electric buses to 365 school districts. Due in large part to this program, 49 states have made electric bus commitments, demonstrating the importance and high-priority of transitioning to an electric bus system.

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School Districts are great candidates for a fixed-rate electric contract. Their higher annual usage gives them greater buying power to negotiate a lower rate.

Funding the Transition to an Electrified School Bus Fleet

More often than not, the greatest obstacle to widespread electric bus adoption is the upfront investment costs and the cost of EV charging infrastructure. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 addresses this concern by providing more than $5 billion in funding for cleaner school buses. This policy is the largest investment in public transit in U.S. history. In an effort to provide greater equity in school transportation, electric school bus grants and rebates will first serve lower-income and underserved communities. School districts can take advantage of these funding opportunities through the EPA’s Clean School Bus Grants and Rebates. Federal funding makes sustainable electrified buses possible without draining limited school district budgets. 

Case Study: Knox County Schools Saves Big with EV Bus Investment

In February 2021, Knox County School District became the first district in the state of Missouri to invest in electric school buses. District leaders were seeking ways to save money on operating costs while meeting the needs of their students. By creating a partnership with their local utility company, Knox County was able to invest in the transition to sustainable electric school buses. 

As a rural school district, they wanted to ensure that their electric school buses could withstand the challenges of the rural landscape while reducing operational costs. They chose to invest in a LionC Electric School Bus with 100-155 mile range and an estimated 15 year battery life. Since adoption, Knox County has received $5,000 in annual savings per electric bus. Over the 15 year lifespan of this fleet, Knox County will achieve an estimated $75,000 in savings. Beyond the financial success of this investment, Knox County has also seen a 60% reduction in maintenance costs. Their new electric school buses have also proved to be more reliable in extreme weather than older diesel models. Due to the success of this pilot, Knox county plans on investing in 100% electric buses in the future.

The Future of Electrified School Transportation

Ultimately, school transportation is primed for a sustainable transformation. Thanks to ample federal funding opportunities, school districts across the nation have the opportunity to transition from unhealthy diesel to sustainable electric buses. Electric school buses are a forward-thinking investment that improves the health outcomes of students while contributing to a healthier and more sustainable planet. While electric school buses only account for a small proportion of the country’s current school bus fleet, 49 states have made the commitment to transition to more sustainable options.  It’s evident that investing in electric school buses not only benefits our students and communities, but also contributes to a more sustainable future for generations to come. 

If you would like to take the first step towards more sustainable school operations, consider contacting the energy experts at Integrity Energy. As your trusted resource for the latest updates and innovations in the energy industry, our team is dedicated to helping schools find the most cost-effective and sustainable energy plans available on the market. Take the first step towards sustainability by requesting a free quote today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are electric school buses more expensive than traditional diesel buses?

Electric school buses generally have higher upfront costs compared to traditional diesel buses. However, they often result in long-term savings due to lower maintenance and fuel expenses.

How far can electric school buses travel on a single charge?

The range of electric school buses can vary depending on factors such as battery capacity and driving conditions. Many electric bus models can travel between 100 to 200 miles on a single charge.

What infrastructure is needed to support electric school buses?

Electric school buses require charging infrastructure, including charging stations that can accommodate school bus energy demands. Many districts are opting for vehicle-to-grid infrastructure to bolster local electrical grid resilience as well. 

Are electric school buses safer for children and the environment?

Electric school buses are generally considered safer for both children and the environment compared to traditional diesel buses. They produce zero tailpipe emissions and contribute to improved air quality, while also reducing noise pollution.

How can my school or district fund the transition to electric school buses?

Schools and districts can fund the transition to electric school buses through federal grants and rebates. Most notably are the opportunities through the EPA’s Clean School Buses Program, which has allocated $5 billion in federal funding to upgrade to more sustainable school buses. 

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