Why should we electrify the school bus fleet in the United States?


This was originally posted on WRI.

The past year has been dedicated to protecting us and our children from a serious respiratory illness: COVID-19.

But as schools reopen and children return to classrooms in person, many children will spend part of their day in a toxic environment that causes prejudice to young lungs and minds: diesel-powered school buses. Almost all of about 480,000 America’s iconic large yellow buses run exclusively on diesel and produce diesel exhaust, a known carcinogen.

It doesn’t have to happen. Clean electric school buses are already successfully transporting children to a handful of school districts. We can and must deploy electric school buses across the country.

It seems like a no-brainer. So why hasn’t the change already happened? The answer is money.

Electric buses are cheaper to operate than diesel buses over time, but the initial purchase costs can be almost three times that of a diesel bus. Most school districts are strapped for funding, especially as a result of the pandemic. They cannot afford to buy electric buses, although the proof is clear that such an investment would benefit children’s health, create good manufacturing jobs and be better for the environment.

Congress can tackle this problem. April 21, Clean Commute for Kids Act was presented to the House and the Senate. It would provide $ 25 billion over 10 years to replace diesel school buses with zero-emission electric buses. The program would be managed by the Environmental Protection Agency, with the Department of Energy providing technical support. The law would prioritize communities that suffer disproportionately from poor air quality, including low-income communities, Indigenous communities and communities of color.

This proposal lives up to what President Joe Biden laid out in his recent press release American employment plan, which proposes to electrify at least 20% of the yellow school bus fleet through a new Clean Buses for Kids program at the EPA. This would be an investment of around $ 20 billion over the 5 to 8 years covered by the program.

Congress should prioritize funding the electrification of school buses, as outlined in the US Plan for Biden Jobs and the Clean Commute for Kids Act, in the next spending package. Now is the time to take action that could improve the lives of millions of children and their communities for generations.

Here’s why:

1. The youngest people in our country are directly affected by daily exposure to diesel pollution

Diesel buses spit Pollution directly in densely populated neighborhoods, but the most dangerous exposure is for students inside the bus; pollution inside these types of emitting vehicles could reach up to 10 times ambient levels. Exposure to higher levels of air pollution is associated with reduced lung development in children.

After the initial cost, an electric school bus could save schools about $ 2,000 in fuel costs and $ 4,400 in maintenance per year.

The magnitude of the impact on lung function is similar to that of maternal smoking exposure. Air pollution has been shown to affect school performance by causing illnesses that lead to absences and cognitive impairment. Traffic-related air pollutants have been associated with short-term fluctuations in the attention of primary school students.

2. Replacing polluting diesel school buses with clean electric buses will help fight racial and economic equity in the United States.

The burden of air pollution is not shared equally. Twenty percent of low-income families do not own vehicles. Most of the children in these families take a bus to school. Exposure to air pollution from vehicles in the Northeast and Central Atlantic regions is, on average, 66 percent more for communities of color than white residents.

3. The increase in the use of electric buses in the United States will create good manufacturing jobs in the country.

Two of the largest school bus manufacturers are in Georgia (Blue Bird) and North Carolina (Thomas builds). Both would increase their number of jobs if the proposed infusion of money for electric buses came to fruition. The increase in domestic production of electric school buses could also encourage suppliers of electric vehicle components to invest in the United States, which would strengthen the competitiveness of the entire auto industry in the growing market for zero vehicles. program. Vice President Kamala Harris recently toured the Thomas Built facility in North Carolina, highlighting electric school buses as an important part of the Biden administration’s U.S. employment plan.

4. The development of electric bus manufacturing in the United States will make these vehicles more affordable.

Less than 1 percent of all school buses in the United States are electric, and the districts that use them do so largely through pilot projects with limited funding. With the type of investment outlined in the Clean Commute for Kids Act, manufacturing costs will drop dramatically, making it more affordable for school districts to purchase electric buses. Once these buses are operational, they will be cheaper to maintain than diesel buses. After the initial cost, electric school bus could save schools approximately $ 2,000 in fuel costs and $ 4,400 in maintenance per year.

5. Replacing American Diesel School Buses with Electric Buses Will Reduce Global Warming Pollution

Imagine a world in which children grow up in clean electric buses to get to school. They will be used to electric vehicles as the norm and will expect clean energy options as they grow older.

Electric school buses are not something we have to wait for. We can deploy them now, if Congress approves the funding outlined in the legislation introduced today.

There should be nothing partisan about protecting children’s health. It’s hard to imagine a more worthy cause than investing in the health of our children as we build an economy that reflects a future that will benefit everyone.

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