Powering Up Education: A Shift to Electric School Buses
Electric school buses seem to answer the severe health and environmental problems caused by the fumes in diesel school buses. These polluting buses have transported American children to and from school for over a century, and a change is needed.
Now the question is how to manage the transition from diesel engines to electric batteries. How much would it cost? What would it entail logistically? Stay and read these four notions every transportation manager should know.
What Is the Current Situation?
Today, there are 480,000 school buses in the United States, but only a tiny fraction (1%) is battery-powered. Most districts continue to use gasoline or diesel buses, as they have for decades. Nevertheless, others have committed to the environment and, as a whole, have acquired more than 12,000 electric school buses.
At the same time, more companies have begun making electric school buses, and government subsidies have increased regarding this issue. However, this does not make things easier for districts. They must still sort through a confusing array of procedures and restrictions, complicating the acquiring process.
What Are the Benefits of Using Electric School Buses?
Over the last couple of years, regulators and nonprofits have been educating everyone on the advantages of having electric vehicles. Specifically, electric school buses have the following benefits:
• Environment: Electric buses do not produce pollutant emissions while running, making them the best choice for environmental responsiveness. If all school buses in the U.S. were electric, it would save an estimated 5.3 million tons of carbon annually.
• Health: Electric school buses are also better for transporting children, especially those with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma. The EPA classifies diesel fumes as probable carcinogens, and children’s lungs are more sensitive to pollutants than adults’.
• Quietness: Similarly, diesel buses are heavy vehicles that account for high noise emissions within urban and rural areas. Electric buses are far quieter, which immediately improves the quality of life for anyone who rides the bus, walks, bikes, or lives next to a bus route.
• Operating Cost: Depending on the fluctuation of fuel and electricity prices, it is estimated that electric buses could amortize their additional construction cost over their lifetime. According to experts, the operating cost (fuel and maintenance) of electric buses is half that of diesel buses.
• Maintenance: Electric vehicles require less maintenance than conventional ones because the battery, motor, and associated electronics require little or no regular maintenance. Fewer fluids are used, making electric school buses more suitable for cold weather.
What Are the Challenges of Using Electric School Buses?
The situation of each district is different. Although small school districts and those located in low-income areas will possibly have more difficulties, all will have to face the following challenges:
• Manufacture Cost: While regular diesel buses cost between $110,000 and $130,000, a new electric bus can cost up to $400,000. In most districts, federal funding is insufficient to buy these buses, and school administrators must resort to other programs and plans.
Infrastructure: Implementing electric fleets implies creating a network with sufficient charging stations. Schools will need to upgrade their existing infrastructure and install chargers at their premises. Nationally, the U.S. would have to double the number of public charging stations.
Autonomy: While diesel buses can run more than 800 miles on a single tank, electric buses can only go 130 miles on a fully charged battery. This makes them less ideal for rural districts with dispersed populations. Worse still, a fully discharged battery can take up to 3 hours to charge.
Energy Sources: Although electric buses produce no CO2 emissions, energy sources are not clean. In 2021, fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, still accounted for 61% of the electricity generated in the United States.
How Can Districts Fund this Transition?
The government has stepped in to accelerate the transition to electric fleets. In 2021, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act was passed, which meant $5 billion in grants for electric vehicles. Districts can apply for the grant through the Clean School Bus Program and use this money to purchase electric buses.
As of the end of 2022, almost two hundred school districts have already applied to the program, which is currently in the Payment stage. Along the same line, several states have taken the lead. For example, California offers statewide grants of up to $235,000 per bus, plus another $30,000 per bus for charging equipment.
Electric school buses are much better for health and the environment. Although their construction cost is high, their savings are much more significant once they are introduced into the fleet.
This type of bus will become much more common in the next decade due to the rapid development of electric vehicle technology and new government incentives. Through the efforts of the government and school districts, the transition is expected to be made continuously but gradually.
A Solution to Power Up this Change
TripSpark’s cloud-based solution provides critical operational software and in-vehicle hardware for diesel, electric, and mixed fleets. Our solution gives you access to real-time monitoring of the condition of each of your buses, allowing you to keep operating costs at a minimum.
Our Fleet Management + Diagnostics tool allows you to:
- Create maintenance services for each fleet unit within the platform and keep a record of them.
- Record each time maintenance has been performed on a bus, the type of service completed (air conditioning revision, etc.), and the date of the following service.
- See all the registered maintenance services and see the status of each bus.
In addition, TripSpark offers GPS tracking, route optimization, and report creation, among many other functions. Whether you have a diesel, electric, or mixed fleet, we have you covered!