Trenton -- The vast majority of school buses in the United States and New Jersey run on diesel, a climate-polluting fossil fuel that releases toxic fumes linked to life-threatening health problems such as asthma, bronchitis and cancer. Emitting more than 5.3 million tons of greenhouse gases per year, not only are diesel buses bad for our children’s health, but they’re also bad for the climate. However, there is a cleaner, safer and more long-term budget-friendly alternative: zero-emission electric school buses. To protect our children’s health and environment, Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center and NJPIRG Law & Policy Center has released a new report to identify new, cutting-edge ways that utility companies can assist school districts in paying for zero-emission bus rollouts and charging infrastructure, and how schools can reap the long-term benefits.
“Electric school buses are ready to roll, but many schools aren’t sure how to come up with upfront costs to get them rolling into school driveways,” said Hayley Berliner, Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center’s Clean Energy Associate. “While electric buses can save and even earn schools money over the lifespan of the bus, the initial price tag often presents a hurdle for cash-strapped districts. Utility investment would help ease the transition and accelerate us toward a zero-emission electric future.”
Moreover, electric utilities have a lot to gain from the large-scale adoption of electric school buses. The report finds that utilities can support electric buses by helping to finance the upfront purchasing costs of electric buses, investing in depot and en-route bus charging infrastructure and introducing smart charging to maximize renewable energy use.
"Pollution generated from school buses harms our children’s health and worsens climate change. Adoption of electric school buses reduce emissions, is healthier for our kids and saves money in the long run,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16), Chairman of the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee. “I strongly support legislation and policies to advance electric school buses and I thank Environment New Jersey for their advocacy."
In February, Governor Murphy announced a $100 million investment in medium- and heavy-duty vehicle electrification, including $10 million to fund 27 electric school buses in six school districts. There is also a bill that has been introduced in the state assembly (A1971/S1819) that would establish an electric school bus pilot program to start testing the feasibility of electric school buses in the state.
Electric school bus electrification was initially part of utility filings presented to the NJBPU by both Atlantic City Electric and PSEG. Both filing settlements were voted on and accepted by the full NJBPU Board this January and February, but without the electric school bus electrification utility funding components. Future utility filings will be crucial to fund the rollout of electric school buses across the state.
The report also includes examples of several utility companies that have already launched programs to help school districts adopt electric buses, including Dominion Energy in Virginia and Portland General Electric in Oregon. By building infrastructure and providing discounted charging, utilities are helping speed the adoption of electric buses, and are seeing some benefits of their own including grid expansion and stabilization, surplus energy storage and increased energy demand.
“Electric school buses are highly strategic - they reduce operating costs for the districts, lower harmful emissions in the local community, and provide compelling evidence that electric vehicles are ready for mainstream adoption,” said Mark Warner, Vice President of Gabel Associates.
On top of health and environmental benefits, electric buses are a financially advantageous choice for school districts. The report shows that with utility investment and advancements in electric vehicle technology, schools can save more than $8,000 per year. The savings add up - over the lifespan of an electric school bus battery, schools can save nearly $130,000 per bus.
Finally, the report gives recommendations for schools, lawmakers and utility companies. Some of these recommendations include:
- School districts should commit to transitioning to 100 percent all-electric buses by 2030, with a plan to phase out the purchase of new diesel buses immediately. They can also engage with local utilities to help accelerate the adoption of electric buses.
- Lawmakers should work with utilities and regulators to develop effective electric bus investment programs that protect ratepayers and consumers. They can also develop grant programs to assist school districts with the additional upfront costs of purchasing electric buses.
- Utility companies should invest in electric school buses and electric charging infrastructure. They should also reduce emissions, increase grid capacity and assist school districts in financing electric school buses and investing in the charging infrastructure necessary for large-scale adoption.
Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center works to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. www.environmentnewjerseycenter.org
New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. www.njpirg.org