Schools Can Now Sign Up For An Electric School Bus Subscription Service

School districts can now sign up for an electric bus subscription service that is cheaper than maintaining standard diesel buses.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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electric bus

News outlets across the nation talk about the mass school bus driver shortage. But what about the other problems regarding big yellow machines that transport children to and from school every day? These buses travel more than four billion miles each year, and most of them run on diesel fuel that is bad for the environment. There’s also the issue of the rising cost of oil. One energy-efficient way schools are combating these growing issues is to implement electric bus fleets in districts. Now, schools can save money on this transition with a newly rolled out bus subscription service.

Companies like Highland Electric Fleets and Thomas Built Buses are now making it easier than ever for school districts to switch out their diesel lineups for electric bus fleets. In March, the two school bus manufacturers announced a plan to offer electric school bus subscriptions through 2025. To entice potential customers, they boast that their prices put them “at cost parity with diesel.”

According to Highland, the electric bus company’s subscription service provides the buses and accompanying charging infrastructure, includes the cost of electricity to charge them, covers maintenance costs, and handles all the complex matters that come with turning electric. When a district enrolls in the program, they simply pay an all-inclusive fee. And as a bonus for going green, these companies promise that the expense is lower than what it costs diesel running districts to operate. 

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By replacing diesel buses with clean and quiet battery-powered models, schools can drastically reduce fuel and maintenance costs and cut air and noise pollution. Electric buses are highly efficient and have much lower operating costs than diesel buses do. They also tend to cost much less in upkeep. Significantly quieter, electric bus fleets also cut down on noise pollution in the community as well. 

State lawmakers have noticed the benefits of electric bus fleets and are pushing more than ever to implement them in school districts. California, typically the leading state in green initiatives, is also ahead of the game when it comes to electric school buses. The Golden State has dumped more than $116 million in incentives, and Democratic Governor Gavin Newsome requested $1.5 billion in a major overhaul to bring more electric school buses into California schools over the next three years.

But other states are following suit now as well. In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul has asked state lawmakers to approve a green bond initiative as the state pledges to convert all of its buses to an electric bus fleet by 2035. Massachusetts has given grants to school districts wishing to test out the environmentally friendlier alternatives. And Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis proposed a spending plan that would see $150 million worth of the state’s education budget sent to the initiative over the next six years.

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But as enticing as the new subscription service may be, some are still leery. There are some noted setbacks that have many states wondering how costly this initiative may become. Local districts that wish to implement electric bus fleets first need to work with their local utility companies to make sure bud depots have enough grid capacity to handle the megawatt-scale charging needs of electric fleets. Furthermore, these bus charging schedules are required to be diligently monitored.

It seems everyone is finding new ways to “go green” in today’s world. But like all ventures, it’s a costly and timely effort that needs thorough examination before implementation. Likewise, different views on climate change will also be likely to set back the push to rid schools of diesel buses. Programs like the ones offered by Highland and Thomas have a good chance of gaining support, but a massive overhaul in school transportation probably won’t be seen anytime soon.