Clean Transportation

Electric School Buses: Safe Ride for Kids

ELPC is working to accelerate the rollout of electric school buses across the Midwest, in order to protect our children from harmful diesel pollution while fighting climate change.

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In nearly every community across the Midwest students ride yellow school buses. It’s a classic feature of American life, so common it’s easy to overlook. But the diesel engine inside your average bus is not so sunny as its exterior, producing air pollution that poses health risks to our children, along with climate change pollution that affects the entire community.

The U.S. school bus fleet is the nation’s largest public transportation fleet with 2.5x the number of vehicles of all other forms of mass transportation combined. School buses also serve a particularly important and vulnerable population, transporting more than 25 million children to and from school every day. In five Midwest states alone (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota) nearly 4 million children ride 86,800 school buses.

School buses transport more than 25 million children every day. Our children deserve a clean ride.

Transitioning to 100% pollution-free, electric school buses is critical for the future of our communities. Children’s lungs are still developing, so they are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of diesel pollution generated by dirty fossil fuel school buses. Moreover, kids living in environmental justice communities generally experience higher rates of asthma and other lung ailments and are therefore disproportionately impacted by diesel school buses they ride and that drive through their neighborhoods.

What is ELPC Doing?

Helping School Districts Secure VW Funding

While the sticker price is higher, an electric bus can actually cost less over the life of the vehicle compared to a diesel bus, making it a better investment in the long run. As more zero-emission buses are purchased, the price tag will fall, as manufacturers reach efficiencies of scale. After the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, states received money from the legal settlement to improve air quality. We analyzed the available uses and found that electric school buses were one of the best uses of those funds, so we set out to inform Midwestern communities and legislators. In 2017, ELPC led an electric school bus tour to six communities in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. We shared our research and amplified voices of local communities, public health experts, education professionals, and utility leaders.

Through our advocacy efforts and working with environmental and public health coalition partners, Midwest state agencies in IL, MI, OH, IN, and MN allocated a combined $20 million toward electric school buses. More recently, Illinois EPA announced it would earmark the remaining $88 million of its VW funds toward pollution-free school and transit buses and electric vehicle charging stations, as ELPC and coalition partners urged.

Advocating for Federal Investments in a Clean Ride for Kids

The federal government appears on the verge of stepping up with funding for electric school buses. Legislation including $25 billion in zero-emission school bus funding was introduced in both houses of Congress this year. The bipartisan infrastructure package winding its way through Congress calls for $2.5 billion toward electric school buses, but falls far short of what the White House originally proposed, and will not accelerate the overdue transition to clean rides for kids.

ELPC is part of the Alliance for Electric School Buses, a national coalition advocating for the rapid expansion of electric school buses in the communities that need them most. Together we are calling on Congress and the White House to redouble their commitment to our children’s health by adding significantly more funding for electric school buses in the reconciliation package.

Watch our electric school bus briefing for Congressional staff with Dr. Sara Adar, U of M School of Public Health; David Meeuwsen, former Transportation Director, Zeeland Public Schools, and MI Assoc of Pupil Transportation; and  Orville Thomas, Lion Electric.

Utility Partnerships

ELPC is working to build mutually beneficial partnerships between Midwestern school districts and utility companies. Thanks to bidirectional vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging stations and improved software, electric school buses not only provide a clean ride for kids, but also act as a distributed energy resource. Their batteries can store energy from local wind and solar sources which school districts can sell back to the grid at peak times, reducing the need to use power plants, lowering pollution, and saving energy costs for everyone.

 

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