Benefits of Switching School Buses From Diesel To Electric
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
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Most of America’s buses, be it for school or transit, run on diesel, a dangerous carcinogen contributing to multiple respiratory illnesses (including asthma). Children are particularly susceptible to the negative health impacts of diesel exhaust because their lungs are still developing. Diesel also contributes to greenhouse gas emission, with heavy duty vehicles such as buses playing a major role in the problem. In October of 2018, a report released by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund and Environment America Research and Policy Center, emphasized the public health benefits of replacing diesel school buses by electric school buses and the available financial tools to enable school districts to make such a swap.
The report is calling on school districts to immediately phase out the purchase of diesel buses, committing to transitioning to 100% all electric bus fleets by 2030.
The U.S. PIRG’s transportation campaign director Matt Casale said in an interview with Greentech Media, “It’s time to switch to electric school buses. Ninety-five percent of school buses in the United States still run on diesel. But we know there’s no safe level of exposure to diesel exhaust for children. Every day, we’re putting them on these buses that are worsening asthma or worsening lung disease. We know that when they’re on the bus, when they’re getting on the buses, when they’re around the buses, when the buses are idling, they are exposed to high levels of diesel exhaust.” Casale further commented that even though an electric school bus has higher upfront cost by around $120,000 at the time of purchase, but a school district would have to pay $170,000 to $240,000 more in the lifetime fuel and maintenance costs for a diesel bus. So it is far more cost effective for school districts to purchase electric school buses rather than diesel buses.
Casale said school districts can utilize municipal bonds and local option transportation taxes to help cover the upfront cost of electric school buses. He also pointed out the importance of state and federal incentive programs to help pay for the upfront costs of purchasing electric school buses.
California is playing the leading role in this transition, with more than 150 electric school buses on the road and dedicated funding ($94 million available in the School Bus Replacement Program to replace diesel school buses with electric school buses, with priority given to disadvantaged, low income communities, according to the California Energy Commission) to replace diesel with electric school buses. States such as Vermont, Minnesota, Arizona, and Michigan are also dedicating a portion of their shares of the Volkswagen diesel emission scandal financial settlement to new electric school buses, with some establishing carve-outs for electric models. Michigan will spend up to $3 million on all-electric school buses and charging infrastructure. Grants will cover up to 70% of the cost of the electric school bus and charging station. Casale also recommended that school districts to engage with their utility to secure the most beneficial rate structure to accommodate charging and to seek investments in charging infrastructure.
The future looks bright for schools, for the benefit in electric school buses are multi-fold: health as well as economics.
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