California governor Gavin Newsom has signed legislation that will require all new school buses in the state to be zero-emission vehicles. The new mandate will take effect in…wait for it…2035.
If that sounds like an unusually timid goal for the Golden State, that’s because it is. Four other states—Connecticut, Maryland, Maine and New York—have already mandated electric school buses, and New York’s requirement is set to take effect in 2027.
California Assembly Bill 579 doesn’t appear to include any interim targets, so districts could continue ordering diesel buses for another 12 years. It also includes the weasel phrase “where feasible,” so, in certain cases, school districts could conceivably put off electrification until 2045.
It’s not clear whether school buses are covered under California’s Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule, which already requires new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to be electric by 2036. (It may be that clarifying this is Bill 579’s raison d’être. The text specifies that it aims to set “a clear deadline” for school bus electrification.)
California already leads the US in electric school bus adoption. Over 2,078 electric buses have been ordered in the state, and some 34% of these have been delivered. The state has a number of incentive programs to help school districts electrify, including the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Program (HVIP), which has funded 1,029 electric buses.
Transit Chicago (via Electrek) estimates that each of its electric transit buses saves $25,000 per year in fuel costs alone.
All things considered, the new underwhelming mandate seems likely to be outrun by economics. Will any manufacturers still be offering diesel buses in 2035?