EPA outlines details of $5 billion electric school bus program

The EPA last week announced $500 million in funding for electric school buses. This is the first $5 billion payout for low- and zero-emission school buses over the next five years under President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure act.

The agency began accepting applications from school districts and other stakeholders on May 20, 2022 and will continue through August 19, 2022. In a press release, the EPA said it would prioritize applications that will replace internal combustion buses serving “local high-needs education”. organizations, tribal schools, and rural areas,” although the actual funding in the form of rebates is still provided through a lottery system.

In addition to new buses, discounts may also be applied to charging equipment, the EPA said.

Lion C Electric School Bus

Most current school buses are diesel-powered, and diesel exhaust has been linked to asthma and other health risks, the EPA noted. Electric buses will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower operating costs for school districts, and potentially help balance the grid through two-way charging, the EPA said.

School buses are the largest form of public transportation, with 480,000 in service each school day, but less than 1% are currently electric, according to the United States Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG). Replacing all current diesel buses with electric vehicles would avoid around 8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, the group said.

The EPA says two-way charging could give electric school buses a role in balancing the grid. Such a large fleet would provide sufficient battery capacity to absorb excess energy during periods of low demand and discharge it during periods of high demand, keeping the generation infrastructure at a more stable level, said the band. It could also increase the use of renewables, which work best with buffer batteries.

Kings Canyon Unified School District Electric School Bus, California

Kings Canyon Unified School District Electric School Bus, California

Electric school buses are no longer a fringe option for green school officials. The first hit the streets of the United States in 2014, and existing bus makers like Blue Bird have been building them in small but growing numbers. Before the federal government stepped in, Volkswagen’s diesel settlement also helped enable part of the shift to electric school buses.

This change is gaining momentum. A Lion Electric plant for electric school buses is shaping up to be one of the largest in the United States, and Boston is aiming for a 100% electric urban fleet by 2030— including school buses. With more funding through the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, will the transition to electric school buses accelerate further?

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