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California replacing 200 polluting diesel school buses with all-electric buses

The California Energy Commission has awarded nearly $70 million to state schools to replace more than 200 diesel school buses with new, all-electric school buses.

The commission approved the funding this week. A total of $89.8 million has now been earmarked for new electric buses at schools in 26 California counties, as the commission’s School Bus Replacement Program works toward this goal.

A study published in Economics of Education Review last month showed diesel retrofits had positive results on both respiratory health and test scores. Eliminating emissions from these buses completely will do even more to protect children from dangerous emissions while cutting air pollution.

The new buses will eliminate nearly 57,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, and nearly 550 pounds of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions annually. Calfornia Energy Commissioner Patty Monahan said,

“School buses are by far the safest way for kids to get to school. But diesel-powered buses are not safe for kids’ developing lungs, which are particularly vulnerable to harmful air pollution. Making the transition to electric school buses that don’t emit pollution provides children and their communities with cleaner air and numerous public health benefits.”

The exact number of buses going to California school districts is unclear — the energy commission only says “more than 200.” If the entirety of the $70 million went to just 200 buses, that’d be $350,000 per bus.

But while the exact cost of each bus is unknown, the commission does estimate that “schools will save nearly $120,000 in fuel and maintenance costs per bus over 20 years.” Some estimates have noted that electric school buses tend to cost about $120,000 more than diesel buses — if that’s the case here, the price will be equal in the end, with added health benefits.

Funding for the electric buses is supplied by the voter-approved California Clean Energy Jobs Act, and the commission’s Clean Transportation Program will provide the charging infrastructure to support the buses.

Today, the commission awarded The Lion Electric Co. with a contract to provide electric buses. Lion has already deployed more than 200 electric school buses in North America, with California getting the bulk of those buses thus far.

Electrek’s Take

School buses are a perfect opportunity to go electric. In addition to the health benefits for school children and others, school buses generally run short, set routes at the same times every day, so charging should never be an issue.

Upfront funding seems to be the biggest challenge to getting more electric school buses, as costs balance out over time when considering fuel and maintenance savings. We’d love to see more investments in these types of initiatives, and more kids taking electric buses to schools every day. It’s such an obvious fit.

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Phil Dzikiy is an Editor/Writer with Electrek/9to5Mac. Tips: