The Future of School Transportation: Electric Buses

With rising fuel prices and increasingly stringent emission standards, the worldwide surge in electric vehicles is here to stay. School buses, specifically, are rapidly undergoing electrification advancements as a result of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newly proposed standards for pollution reduction from heavy-duty vehicles and engines.

What does this mean for the future of school transportation?

According to the World Resources Institute, less than 1% of school buses in the U.S. are currently powered by electricity, with 92-95% running on diesel. It is expected that 33% of all transit buses will be electric by 2045, meaning the next 20 years will be pivotal for the bus industry’s transformation. Some states, such as New York, have already committed to electrifying school bus fleets statewide by 2035, which equates to approximately 47,000 buses in 13 years, as reported by Forbes. On a global scale, the electric bus market is expected to grow at a rate of 18% between 2022 and 2030, according to Straits Research. This increase is due in part to rising demand for fuel-efficient, low-emission buses, rising fuel prices, a reduction in battery prices, and $5 billion of EPA funding available.

The EPA has set new standards for greenhouse gas emissions starting as early as the model year 2027 for Type C and D school buses (Type C being the most common school bus on the road). With these new requirements, bus manufacturers are predicting that by around 2030, new bus sales will be mostly, if not all, electric. That timeline may seem unfeasible, but electric school buses have been circulating the market since 2017, with popular bus manufacturers such as Thomas Built and IC Bus leading the charge. New providers like Lion Electric are solely comprised of electric options, choosing to forego standard diesel engines altogether.

How could this affect your district’s bottom line?

While electric buses do not come cheap, the federal incentives at play significantly decrease the bus cost, positively impacting a school district’s financials. With more than $5 billion of funding available over the next five years, the transition from traditional combustion engines to an electric fleet could cost a fraction of the amount currently spent on bus replacements. Additionally, foregoing the cost of diesel fuel and many maintenance requirements of a traditional bus, electric school buses prove cheaper to operate and maintain.

Looking into the future, school districts have the opportunity to not only save money but generate revenue as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) options become more feasible. V2G, while not widely available now, is an opportunity for school districts to generate revenue by selling energy from their buses to the grid in times of need. This possibility is already proving to be a profitable setup for schools in Europe, California, and the Northeast.

There is no question that this decade will prove an exciting turning point for the future of electric vehicles. Follow along as we report on the latest opportunities for school districts to maximize this opportunity and create a more positive student environment.