Zero Now

Driving the Future Forward with Zero-Emissions Electric School Buses

September 25, 2023 jill Blog


Each weekday morning across the United States, an estimated 26 million children board school buses that deliver them safely to school, and then again in the afternoon to bring them home. Almost half a million school buses are on our nation’s roads each school day, driving a cumulative 6 billion miles a year.

School buses have long been known to help conserve energy and reduce fuel usage by transporting multiple children at one time vs. each parent driving their own child to school. In addition, the school bus industry’s new diesel engine standards make today’s buses 98% cleaner than buses from 20 years ago, and smaller Type-A buses with gasoline engines are cleaner yet.

Innovation and technology continue to improve with alternative fuel solutions being offered, which have lower emissions, and even zero emissions. Enter the electric school bus.

The research and facts are there to support switching to an electric bus to create a healthier mode of transportation. Looking at the entire bus industry, Columbia University found a single electric bus can reduce health costs by $150,000 per year.

The American Lung Association estimates that if all New York’s buses, including school buses, were changed to zero emissions, it would create $68.2 billion in public health benefits.

And New York is taking action. By 2027, all school buses sold in the state must be zero emissions, and all school buses driving on New York roads must be zero emissions by 2035. To support this, the state has approved $500 million in grants for new electric school buses through the environmental bond act, which will be voted on this November.

If concerned about replacing your current school bus with an electric school bus, keep in mind there are significant and unique features and benefits, including the following.

Care for Your Children and Community

In addition to helping your community have cleaner air by eliminating emissions, an electric school bus also reduces noise pollution. An average bus produces noise levels of 85 decibels; the Environmental Protection Agency advises a maximum of 80 decibels.

In addition, adding an electric school bus to your school demonstrates the value you place on protecting the environment and caring for your students and drivers’ health, which can create a general sense of goodwill and shows leadership and progress towards a better future.

Cost Savings

While the initial purchase of an electric school bus may cost more, it will drive cost savings in the long run, because electricity is less expensive than diesel. It was recently reported that school districts are spending just 14 cents per mile on their electric buses compared to 49 cents per mile for diesel buses.

Maintenance costs are also reduced since an electric engine does not require as much maintenance. An electric school bus is estimated to save between $4,000 to $11,000 per bus per year. In some states, electric school buses can even generate revenue through V2G (Vehicle to Grid) by selling excess electricity back to the grid during times of high demand.

Commit to Your City or State’s Environment Goals

Many larger cities and states have set goals to electrify transportation by a specific date. If you start electrification now, it will avoid an unplanned purchase when the goal date goes into effect. In addition, if you take action now, it will make sure you’re not buying a bus that will be obsolete before it can be fully depreciated.

Currently only 1% of school buses are electric, but there’s no need to wait until zero emissions buses are the majority. Early adopters of electric school bus technology can take advantage of all the funding and incentives that are in place to subsidize the upfront cost of electric school buses.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to offer rebates to replace school buses with clean and zero-emission models to reduce harmful emissions from older buses.

This time last year, the EPA announced it was doubling the funding awarded for clean school buses this year following high demand from school districts across the United States that applied for the 2022 Clean School Bus (CSB) Rebates.

This was the first round of funding from the EPA Clean School Bus Program, which President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created with a historic $5 billion investment for low- and zero-emission school buses over the next five years. The rebate application period closed in August with an outstanding response from school districts seeking to purchase electric and low-emission school buses across the country.

When looking into an electric school bus that will be a suitable addition to your fleet as well as meet the needs of your school and daily route, consider the following:

  • What is the battery capacity? How much usable energy does it offer, in terms of kWh?
  • What is the range on a fully charged battery?
  • How fast will the battery pack charge and what sort of infrastructure do you need to have in place for charging?
  • How easy is it for maintenance to access the software platform?

Small Type A electric school buses can typically accommodate 12 to 24 passengers. Battery capacities typically range from 68 kWh on the smallest buses based on the Ford E-Transit, to 130 kWh on larger GM G4500 platforms. Type-A school buses can provide up to a 100-mile range on a full charge.

Other features and benefits to consider when selecting a Type A school bus or Multi-Function School Activity Bus are:

  • A narrow-body design that allows for easy vehicle maneuverability
  • Large driver compartment windows, which reduce blind spots and enhance visibility
  • An innovative structure featuring an exclusive one-piece tubular roof bow design for unmatched structural integrity
  • A 5-year body warranty and limited lifetime paint warranty.

Whether or not your state has set a zero emissions goal, it is time well spent to research electric school buses. Not only are there the environmental benefits of a quiet and clean vehicle with zero tailpipe pollution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but investing in an electric school bus now can protect your community and save costs for the future.

Bryce Pfister is the vice president and general manager of Collins Bus Corporation. As a trusted bus manufacturer known for strength and safety, Collins has delivered more than 50 years of bus designs, including pioneering the Type-A electric school bus,


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