Municipalities in the United States are decreasing their carbon emissions by adopting electric vehicles for transportation, particularly in school districts.

Electric buses currently make up less than one percent of the total bus fleet in the U.S. However, this number is rapidly increasing, driven by government incentives and mandates and declining battery costs. Furthermore, electric buses have a much lower carbon footprint than their diesel counterparts, with the potential to reduce carbon emissions by up to 92 percent.

Electric buses also have additional benefits besides reducing carbon emissions. Some experts have long maintained that electric buses have lower operational and maintenance costs, making them cost-effective in the long run.

However, the shift towards widespread adoption of electric buses will come with unique difficulties for both bus fleet operators and power grids.

For example, installing charging stations for electric buses can be costly and require ample space. This challenge is amplified in areas with lengthy bus routes and by limited battery range. Currently available electric buses have a range of around 100 to 120 miles on a single charge.

School districts need efficient and easily accessible charging infrastructure, especially during the intervals between morning and afternoon routes, to support the operations of electric bus fleets. This includes fast and slow chargers, which depend on various factors, such as fleet size, bus battery capacity and daily usage patterns.

Also, optimization models can be utilized to determine the appropriate number and locations of charging stations, considering factors such as bus routes, charging duration and computational time. It’s worth noting that obtaining charging station locations may require collaboration with private property owners or local governments to identify appropriate sites.

Core Development Group, for instance, is contributing to the biggest electric vehicle fleet charging system in the Americas. The Mahwah, New Jersey-based company partners with a prominent U.S. retailer to plan, design, procure and construct large-scale level 2 (L2) chargers and a few hundred level 3 (L3) fast-charging systems.

Attracting, managing bids

There are several ways in which a government can encourage the private sector to invest in electrifying transportation for schools. One of which is offering grants, like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus program, which provides grants to replace current school buses with eco-friendly models that produce zero or low emissions.

Thanks to the EPA’s initiative, the Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, could replace 25 diesel-powered buses with electric models. The district’s Transportation Director, Dexter Harman, has expressed his excitement about the opportunity to embrace such an innovative and technologically advanced solution.

The EPA’s Clean School Bus program’s funding was doubled in September 2022 to facilitate its goal. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law made the funding increase possible, which provided the EPA with an unprecedented $5 billion. This also showed a significant commitment by the U.S. government to reducing harmful emissions in the education sector.

Ultimately, adopting electric school buses reduces carbon emissions and brings about additional benefits to the community, such as quieter streets and cleaner air. Municipals must set clear goals, provide methods to get funding and collaborate with the private sector to build a sustainable electrified transportation infrastructure.