About 25 million children around the country rely on buses to get them to school, and 95% of those buses are diesel. Thankfully, a new Clean School Bus Program through the Environmental Protection Agency is helping to switch out the oldest and most polluting diesel buses to electric versions. 

What are the benefits of electric buses?

Even after accounting for the electricity generation, both diesel and gas powered school buses produce two to three times more global warming emissions than electric buses. Because the electric grid is adding more renewable energy every day, these emissions reductions will only improve over time.

There are many benefits of electric school buses, but perhaps the most important are the health benefits to children because their brains are still developing and are more sensitive to pollution. Even if your child doesn’t take the bus, they are often near buses (and their emissions) as they enter and exit school. Studies have shown that reducing school bus diesel pollution can decrease incidence of bronchitis and asthma; increase English test scores and aerobic capacity; and increase school attendance. 

Unfortunately for those kids taking the bus, diesel particulate pollution can be 4-12 times higher inside the bus than outside. But we have solutions! Converting a bus from diesel to natural gas can reduce harmful nitrogen oxide emissions by 35% and diesel particulate emissions by up to 75%. Even better is an electric bus, because they can reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by over 80% and particulate matter emissions by nearly 95% compared to a diesel bus. Yet another benefit of electric buses is that they’re substantially quieter than diesel or gas-powered buses. 

In addition to the improved health outcomes for children, school districts and contractors who provide school buses also see financial benefits. For example, upgrading to an electric bus from an older diesel bus results in lower vehicle maintenance costs, improved vehicle performance when fully loaded or in hilly areas, lower overall fuel costs, and they protect school districts from the volatile gas and diesel price spikes. 

Some school districts in Idaho have already secured funding from the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program. In the first year of the Clean School Bus Program existence both the Genesse and Pomeroy school districts received funding to add electric buses to their fleet, and the McCall-Donnelly school district was awarded funds to purchase 10 electric buses! 

The Clean School Bus Program remains active, and applications for new electric school buses will be available through 2026. These federal grants are not easy to secure, and your local school district could use some help. 

What you can do

  1. Help other parents become aware of the health benefits associated with electric buses. Make sure they know about the opportunity for federal funds to pay for schools to upgrade their aging buses. 
  2. Contact your local school administrator and ask them to prioritize the purchase of electric buses. You can find the list of school administrators focused on transportation issues here. The more people who contact them about electric buses, the more resources they will devote to this issue.
  3. If you’re really into electric buses, consider writing a letter to your local newspaper noting all the benefits! Don’t worry if you’ve never written a letter to the editor, we  can help you with the process of writing and submitting your letter so it has the greatest impact. Let me know if you’d like to more info on writing a letter?