Utilities among advocates for electric school buses under Volkswagen settlement
by Kari Lydersen
It’s a childhood memory for many Americans: the yellow school bus with uncomfortable vinyl seats, a cantankerous driver and the ever-present smell of diesel.
But at least the olfactory part of that equation could change if electric vehicle proponents get their way. They envision electric school buses that eliminate diesel emissions as a benefit for school budgets, the environment and public health — especially for kids, since idling buses mean emissions accumulating around school buildings and inside the buses themselves.
With many school districts facing budget crises, replacing bus fleets and obtaining charging infrastructure hardly seems realistic.
But school officials, clean energy groups and even utilities are hoping that funds from the settlement of the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal will provide an initial crop of electric school buses and charging infrastructure, helping to jump-start what could be an eventual national shift.
“There is no question that electric school buses are good for kids’ health — they are cleaner than the cleanest diesel bus,” said Janet McCabe, former acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. McCabe is now a senior law fellow with the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC).
“But they cost more and school districts don’t usually have a lot of cash lying around,” McCabe added. “So the time to get the buses into school systems is when there are funds to make up the difference.”