Back to school has always been a time to showcase the latest trends. It has been years since I cared deeply about the “it” sneaker, jean brand, or even the coolest sticker for a reusable water bottle—though I follow through my kids. But for 2023-24, I have a confession to make. There’s a trend I am totally coveting and I’m jealous of the people who already have it.
What is it my heart desires this season, you ask? Electric school buses! I want them for my kids’ district. So badly.
It’s not the easiest trend to get in on, but it’s certainly the best. I have a few things going for me that might help me get there. First off, I live in New York, where there’s a mandate: all school district purchases or leases of new vehicles for pupil transportation must be zero-emission by July 1, 2027, and the school bus fleet must be entirely zero-emission by 2035. We’re all going to get them eventually. I just want it to happen as soon as possible. And second, I know all the reasons to roll with electric school buses.
I’m happy to be noisy in an effort to get this done, but I know not to try to get electric school buses for my district alone. I know to seek out a group of families, plus school kids and also teachers and bus drivers. Together, I hope we can go to our principal, superintendent, and the Board of Education to let them know why electric school buses are right for our district.
We can explain how electric school buses will save our kids from exposure to dirty diesel bus exhaust, a known human carcinogen that can also trigger asthma attacks and interfere with learning. Maybe they are not aware that tailpipe pollution inside a diesel bus can be even higher than outside, a big concern for students with long commutes as well as bus drivers. Electric buses run on battery power with no tailpipe emissions—on the bus or into surrounding communities. That’s why I want them for my community—and all communities.
Here’s the thing, in spite of these considerable benefits, some districts are hesitant about making the switch from diesel to electric. I get it. Embracing new technology can involve growing pains and questions like how to pay for new buses and charging infrastructure.
If my district has questions, I’m prepared to point them in the direction of useful resources to help them make the switch. There are government and utility plans to help fund the purchase; there may be state incentives too. There’s enough electricity for the buses—and more to come. Grid infrastructure is currently being built out, thanks in part to electricity transmission provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. And I’m ready to pepper the powers that be where I live with facts like:
- Electric school buses cost 60% less to operate and maintain than diesel buses.
- Electric school buses are built to run in any weather. And they’re great in snow.
- Electric school buses can provide backup power in storms.
- Electric school buses range as far as your kids need to roam to school.
The last time I floated the idea of electric school buses on my district’s Facebook page to try to find other parents to work with, I was dismayed by the misinformation shared by some community members. One person was certain our local routes—some quite rural—were too long for electric school buses to cover. I know this is not true.
Electric school buses aren’t a new entity. With each generation that has been manufactured, the buses have grown more advanced. Some electric school buses have a range of up to 210 miles, enough to easily cover the majority of school routes. For districts concerned about range, keep in mind that well-organized planning of diesel school bus routes has long been a way to reduce heavy pollution and save gallons of gas. Similar routing can help reduce miles traveled if electric school bus range is a concern.
Join us to get in on this excellent trend to reduce air pollution and safeguard the health of our school kids, our bus drivers, our teachers, and our communities.