The New Jersey State Senate has approved legislation that would require the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to develop and implement an electric school bus program.
The bill would provide funding for three years for the purchase of new electric school buses and charging infrastructure in at least 18 New Jersey school districts. At least half of these would be located in “low-income, urban or environmental justice communities.”
On a typical school day, more than 800,000 New Jersey students ride to and from school on one of the state’s 15,000 diesel school buses.
“School buses are known to emit greenhouse gases and carcinogens, both of which contribute to climate change and threaten exposed individuals with elevated lifetime risks of developing cancer, asthma, and heart disease,” said State Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, the bill’s primary sponsor. “Transitioning from the conventional diesel-fueled buses to those with zero emissions will significantly decrease our state’s pollution levels.”
In a joint op-ed for NJ.com, Diegnan and clean energy advocate Hayley Berliner noted that mass adoption of electric school bus technology comes with challenges. The sticker price of a new electric school bus can be nearly triple that of a new diesel bus, but e-buses save money over the lives of the vehicles through lower fuel and maintenance costs, and offer the opportunity to use vehicle-to-grid capabilities to generate revenue for school districts.
A University of Delaware study estimates one electric school bus could save a district about $230,000 over its 14-year lifespan.
Diegnan’s legislation requires the NJDEP to develop a program to determine the operational reliability and cost-effectiveness of replacing diesel school buses with electric buses. According to the bill, $45 million is to be made available for grants—$15 million for each year of the three-year program. Districts or bus contractors selected to participate will submit reports to the NJDEP detailing the cost to operate e-buses, including maintenance records and transponder data, and details of any reliability issues.