The Health Benefits of Choosing Electric School Buses

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The Health Benefits of Choosing Electric School Buses

Across the United States, vehicle fleets are shifting from traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) models to electric vehicles (EVs), a trend that encompasses school bus fleets as well. According to the World Resources Institute, a group advocating for sustainability, by mid-2023, the U.S. had nearly 6,000 electric school buses that had been committed to through awards, orders, deliveries, or were already operational. Here’s an overview of the benefits of EV school buses for students and tips on how to introduce them to your public or private school.

The Need for Electric School Buses

Switching from traditional diesel-powered school buses to electric models is primarily advocated for the sake of child wellness. Despite diesel buses being favored for their fuel efficiency, diesel exhaust has been recognized as a carcinogen to humans since 2012. The National Institute of Environmental Health Science highlights that Traffic-Related Air Pollution (TRAP) includes a broad spectrum of pollutants such as ground-level ozone, carbon compounds, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and fine particulate matter. These pollutants are linked not only to cancers but also to cardiovascular, respiratory diseases, and other health disorders.

The concern with school buses goes beyond just the emissions; it’s about where these emissions end up. Exhaust fumes from school buses are notorious for infiltrating the buses themselves, schoolyards, playgrounds, and even the residential areas that these buses pass through. This exposure is particularly troubling in urban areas where children might find it difficult to avoid harmful vehicle emissions. Furthermore, TRAP has been associated with hindering cognitive development in students and causing changes in brain structure, making the case for electric school buses not just an environmental issue, but a critical public health concern.

Benefits of Electric School Buses

Electric school buses stand out because they emit no pollutants from tailpipes, safeguarding students from the direct harmful effects of vehicle exhaust when boarding or in proximity to the bus. While the overall environmental impact of electric buses includes well-to-wheel emissions, depending on the source of the electricity used for charging, this footprint is poised to diminish as the grid becomes increasingly powered by renewable energy sources.

Phasing out diesel buses in favor of electric ones represents a significant step towards creating a healthier environment around schools. Thankfully, various funding initiatives are available to assist school districts in making this transition, thereby promoting the well-being of students.

Support for Electric School Bus Transition

The U.S. federal government, via the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program (CSB), is facilitating the shift towards electric school buses with funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. From 2022 to 2026, the CSB plans to allocate $5 billion for the upgrade of school buses to zero- or low-emission vehicles, utilizing two primary funding mechanisms: Rebates and Grants.

In its inaugural year, 2022, the program awarded $965 million to nearly 400 schools to assist in replacing old buses through rebate funding. For 2023, the EPA anticipates distributing at least another $500 million in rebates and an additional $400 million in grants. Applications for the 2023 CSB Rebate Program are open until January 31, 2024, at 4pm ET.

Local Funding and Support for Electric School Buses

In addition to federal support, local entities including states and electric utilities offer funding opportunities for electric school bus transitions. For instance, Nevada Energy’s Electric School Bus Incentives program offers a 75% rebate on the purchase of electric school buses and associated charging equipment.

To explore state-specific funding options, the Alternative Fuels Data Center provides a useful search tool. By selecting a state, you can access a comprehensive list of electric vehicle incentives available in that area.

The Electric School Bus Initiative, dedicated to promoting the shift towards electric school buses in America, is another valuable resource for school boards and educational groups aiming to make the switch from diesel to electric.

Moreover, local utility companies might have programs to help offset costs. An emerging technology, Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G), proposes that electric buses could contribute electricity back to the grid during peak demand times. Although still under development, V2G technology promises future cost-saving possibilities for electric bus fleet operators through participation in utility demand response programs.

Charging Solutions for Electric School Bus Fleets

For electric school bus fleets, selecting the right type of EV chargers is crucial. Level 2 chargers, depending on the specific vehicle and charger amperage, can replenish a battery in four to eight hours. On the other hand, Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFC) offer a quicker solution, capable of charging a battery in less than an hour. However, this speed comes at a cost, as DCFCs require more power and entail higher installation expenses. Implementing a mix of both charger types enables fleets to utilize Level 2 chargers for overnight or daytime charging during school hours, while DCFCs can be reserved for situations requiring a rapid charge.

Conclusion

Transitioning from diesel to electric school buses is a crucial step towards protecting the health and safety of students nationwide. Electric buses produce no harmful greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to cleaner and healthier air for our communities.

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