Clean Vehicles

Hooray! Biden Admin Doubles Electric School Bus Funding Due To “Overwhelming” Demand

There was “overwhelming demand” in the program’s first round of funding to give $500 million to schools to help get electric school buses.

Back to school. Multiracial pupils of primary school near school bus. Happy children ready to study.

After the Biden administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $500 million in grants to fund its green school buses initiative in March 2022, the interest in the program — which will provide fleets of electric school buses to school districts nationwide — has resulted in “overwhelming demand from school districts across the country,” the EPA says. As a result, this year's earmarked funding to provide school districts across the country with low- and no-emission school buses has been doubled to nearly $1 billion, and that’s great news for kids, the environment, and the rest of us.

“America’s school districts delivered this message loud and clear – we must replace older, dirty diesel school buses,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement released on Thursday, September 29th. “Together, we can reduce climate pollution, improve air quality, and reduce the risk of health impacts like asthma for as many as 25 million children who ride the bus every day.”

The application period for school districts to receive rebates to purchase electric school buses closed in August, and the agency said they received approximately 2,000 applications from school districts nationwide — asking for about a total of $4 billion in rebates to greenify one of “the most extensive public transportation systems” in the United States.

There are currently almost about 560,000 school buses in the United States that travel six billion miles a year. As of now, 95% of kids travel on diesel-run buses. So this greenification will have profound impacts.

Most of the applications were for zero-emission electric buses, with a small percentage requesting propane-fueled buses.

“With applications flooding the Clean School Bus Program, school districts around the country have spoken: They’re ready to make polluting diesel buses a thing of the past,’’ said Sue Gander, director of an electric school bus initiative for the World Resources Institute, a global research organization, per The Columbian.

The EPA said it will “move swiftly to review applications” and expects to announce the approved grants, and what school districts won them, next month. The agency is also working on securing and designing new rounds of program funding in the coming months, including a competition for an “ambitious grant.”

Future rounds of EPA funding will provide another $1 billion earmarked for clean school buses in 2023.

The funds come from Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan, which allows the EPA to prioritize 40% of the allocated funds for the buses to marginalized and underserved school districts.

Clean school buses will help protect the environment. Previous reporting from Fatherly found that diesel is 3,200 times more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide in the short term. Diesel exhaust also contributes to ozone at the ground level and contributes to the proliferation of acid rain. Diesel exhaust, which comes from school buses and other gas-run vehicles, is a known pollutant.

It’s also terrible for kids’ health. One estimate found that children who ride older diesel school buses with no pollution control are at a 4% higher risk of developing cancer over the course of their lives. One White House estimate found that the plan to greenify federal fleets of vehicles could help save up to 2,000 lives a year, will eliminate 18,000 cases of childhood asthma, and will result in 1.1 million fewer days of missed school per year.

“We expect to see a significant drop in cases of asthma and other respiratory illnesses in kids and bus drivers and teachers who load our precious cargo before and after school,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan previously told Fatherly.

Prioritizing the clean school bus grants — and the U.S. Postal Service vehicle fleets getting an overhaul, too — aligns with the Biden administration’s goals of reducing admissions. It’s a major move forward, with the federal government stepping up to protect the environment.