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Electric vehicles (EVs) are at the forefront of discussion as millions of Americans are switching to electric every year. As a result, automakers are making significant investments to offer more and more EVs in their lineup to keep up with customer demand.

One area of the transportation industry that is also switching over to electric is school buses. While school buses certainly do not get as many headlines as passenger cars (take the Tesla Cybertruck for example), they are also critical to transportation electrification. Investment in clean technology is vitally important at schools as children are the future of society.

Like passenger EVs, there are many reasons why electric school buses are better than internal combustion engine (ICE) buses, such as zero emissions and decreased air pollution, lower total cost of ownership, and quieter operation.

Zero Emissions and Decreased Air Pollution

First and foremost, children’s health is critically important. Children are especially vulnerable to the negative health effects of pollution because their bodies are still growing. Any repression of their developmental progress can greatly affect their future, and subsequently, everyone’s future.

A study by the Environmental and Human Health states that, “A vast majority of U.S. school buses are powered by diesel fuel. Diesel exhaust is comprised of very fine particles of carbon and a mixture of toxic gases. Federal agencies have classified diesel exhaust as a probable human carcinogen. Benzene, an important component of the fuel and exhaust, is designated to be a known human carcinogen. Components of diesel exhaust are genotoxic, mutagenic, and can produce symptoms of allergy, including inflammation and irritation of airways. There is no known safe level of exposure to diesel exhaust for children, especially those with respiratory illness.”

Electric school buses produce zero emissions (good for the planet) and no air pollution (good for children and any other people nearby). Diesel-powered buses, however, release millions of tons of pollution every year, which can cause health problems like cancer and asthma. With the now available clean technology of electric school buses, school districts must make every effort to eliminate children’s exposure to air pollution for the sake of their health.

School districts advise bus drivers to keep the windows down to prevent exhaust fumes from lingering inside the cabin. Of course, weather can make this impossible. With electric, bus drivers do not have to ensure the windows are down as electric school buses are pollution-free.

Lower Total Cost of Ownership

Electric school buses have a lower total cost of ownership than diesel buses. Like passenger EVs, driving electric can save thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle. This is because EVs are more efficient and require much less maintenance.

For example, Pacific Gas & Electric estimated that a fleet of 20 electric school buses can save over $700,000 in ten years of operation compared to diesel. Franklin Pierce School District, located in Tacoma, Washington, purchased an electric school bus in 2019 – the first in the state. In just one year of operation, the school district saved over $8,000 in fuel savings, per eTrans Energy. It really does pay to go electric!

Many schools around the country are constantly in need of additional funding. Decreasing operational expenditure can help schools purchase more educational supplies, increase pay for teachers, provide more co-curricular programs, and more. 

Quieter Operation

For many of us that rode the bus to school when we were kids, we remember how loud the bus was. Between the noise from the diesel engine and your peers yelling and having fun, it was difficult to hear your friend next to you. This is because diesel engines are the loudest type of engine on the road.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires noise levels to be no more than an average of 85 decibels over an eight-hour period. Occasional exposure to noise levels above this threshold are acceptable, however, they should be greatly reduced for children. Unfortunately, diesel school buses are routinely exceed these noise limits. This can potentially cause hearing damage to both the driver and the passengers. 

On the other hand, with electric school buses, near silent electric motor operation eliminates this health hazard. And as stated previously, protecting children’s health should be an absolute priority for all.

As a bonus, electric school buses can remain idle while preheating the cabin in cold climates without disturbing classrooms before the bell rings. It is fairly certain teachers will be on board with that idea. 

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $5 billion for low emission and electric school buses. School districts need to replace polluting buses as soon as possible. Click here to learn more about electrifying fleets.