Electric school buses have zero tailpipe emissions, offering clean and healthy rides and reducing operating expenses. However, the upfront cost of $375,000 is a significant barrier. Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean School Bus Program allows school districts in all 50 states to replace old diesel buses with new electric buses at no cost.
Last month, I drove a school bus for the first time. Despite not having much experience driving large vehicles, I was pleasantly surprised by how similar it felt to driving my 2020 Chevy Bolt EV. The ride was smooth and quiet, and the regenerative braking system made it easy to control the large bus without needing to use the brakes too often. Overall, it was a comfortable and enjoyable experience.
The electric bus I drove – a LionC electric school bus – can carry 77 students for up to 155 miles on a single charge. This bus was fresh off the assembly line at the new LION assembly plant in Joliet, IL. The plant is located about 90 miles south of the Wisconsin border and is North America’s largest electric school bus assembly plant. The plant opened earlier this year and will support 1,400 Clean Energy Jobs and produce 20,000 fully electric school buses and electric trucks per year.
Why Clean School Buses?
Every day, more than 25 million American children rely on school buses for safe transport to and from school, collectively covering over three billion miles each year. However, the exhaust from these buses can harm human health, particularly for children whose lungs are still developing. To address this issue, the Clean School Bus Program provides rebates and grants to replace existing diesel and gas-powered buses with cleaner models. This initiative aims to improve air quality as well as the safety and well-being of our students, their bus drivers, and the surrounding communities.
Electric school buses are both cleaner and cheaper to operate than diesel buses. On average, diesel buses use 6 miles per gallon [mpg], while electric buses boost that efficiency to an equivalent of 17 mpg. Electric school buses can save more than $170,000 on fuel and maintenance throughout their lifespan. Furthermore, Wisconsin’s lack of petroleum production means that switching to electric buses can keep our energy dollars in the state, support local jobs, and contribute to the state’s general economic growth.
Wisconsin Schools are Going Electric!
Last fall, 15 school districts in Wisconsin took advantage of the Clean School Bus Program and were awarded 65 electric school buses scheduled to be delivered by October 2024. The EPA is now preparing for a second round of rebates, which will be announced this fall. Schools and transportation contractors can apply online for Clean School Bus rebates, which are awarded through a lottery system. Priority is given to rural, tribal, and high-need school districts. Those that qualify can receive up to $395,000 to purchase a bus and charging station in exchange for an older diesel bus for up to 25 buses. The list of prioritized school districts can be found here.
You can sign up for updates on the Clean School Bus Program and see the list of 2022 award recipients. For more information on electric school buses, route planning assistance, and applying to the EPA’s program, contact Francisco Sayu, Director of Emerging Technology at RENEW Wisconsin, at email@example.com.