The U.S. Releases $500 Million to Make School Buses Electric

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Last month, the Biden-Harris administration announced the first round of its $5 billion commitment toward replacing the nation’s school buses with clean energy zero-emissions electric buses in a bid to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.

School bus operators and contractors across the country can now begin replacing the nation’s school buses with clean energy buses, says the Biden administration. The administration has released $500 million—the first round of funding pledged to overhaul the nation’s school buses as part of the nation’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The buses are all being made in America—a boost to domestic manufacturing, the administration says.

‘Historic investment’

“This historic investment under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will forever transform school bus fleets across the United States,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, said in a statement. “These funding opportunities to replace older, heavily-polluting buses will result in healthier air for many of the 25 million American children who rely on school buses, many of whom live in overburdened and underserved communities. Today we take a major step toward a future where clean, zero-emissions school buses are the American standard.”

Clean air vehicles are better for the environment by reducing CO2 emissions, but they’re also better for children’s health. Diesel fuel pollution is linked to health issues including asthma—a common concern for children, the administration says.

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

“New, zero-emission and low-emission buses will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but produce cleaner air for students, bus drivers, school staff working near the bus loading areas, and the communities that the buses drive through each day,” the EPA said in a statement. It says the move to zero-emission buses costs less for school districts to operate than diesel buses, and electricity stored in the buses can transmit energy back to the grid.

“Every dollar we invest in clean school buses means cleaner air, healthier students, and a brighter future for our nation. That’s exactly why we fought to include historic funding for electric and other zero-emitting clean school buses in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, targeting schools that serve our most vulnerable children,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Tom Carper. “For those of us who have spent years working to clean up our nation’s school buses, we know there are millions of dirty buses that need replacing, especially in our most disadvantaged communities. Today’s announcement represents real potential progress in terms of cleaner air for all and a better economy. American-made clean school buses are good for communities, good for our economy, and good for our planet—a true win-win-win.”

The Infrastructure Law will allow the EPA to prioritize replacing buses in high-need education agencies as well as Tribal Schools and rural communities as part of Biden’s Justice40 initiative aimed at directing 40 percent of certain government investments toward underserved communities. The EPA says it will also focus education and outreach efforts in these communities with portions of rebates used to install EV charging infrastructures.

School buses’ environmental impact

Recent research conducted by Environment & Human Health Inc. found that pollution levels on school buses often exceed surrounding areas by five to ten times. There are more than 480,000 school buses in the U.S., with 95 percent running on diesel fuel; 25 million students take the bus to and from school daily. The transportation sector is the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.

Photo by Juan Carlos Becerra on Unsplash

“Right now, most school buses are powered by dirty diesel engines that exacerbate climate change and emit dangerous air pollution. With these funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are beginning to change that, paving the way for cleaner air and healthier communities – especially for frontline communities who are at greater risk,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. “These investments will also help spur the development and deployment of American-made clean technology, creating more good paying jobs right here at home. This is a win for our economy, our environment, and most of all, our nation’s children, all of whom deserve to breathe clean, safe air.”

 House Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko calls the move a “major down payment” on ensuring children and grandchildren can experience “pollution-free rides.”

“Too many American children are forced to breathe dirty air on their commutes to and from school,” Tonko said. “I’m proud that our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes this investment, driving innovation, creating good jobs, reducing pollution, and prioritizing communities that need the help most. I’m heartened by today’s announcement that will set us on a path to build a cleaner, healthier, better world for our kids.”

Lead Photo by Jose Alonso on Unsplash


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