California clean-energy agency CALSTART has released a new report, Zeroing in on Electric School Buses, which describes the current state of the elect. As of September 2021, there were 1,738 ESBs (every good public-sector report must introduce at least one new acronym) awarded, ordered, delivered and deployed across the US. In total, there are some 480,000 school buses in the US, and over 95% are powered by diesel.
School buses are generally considered prime candidates for electrification for several reasons: they’re simpler and cheaper than transit buses; they sit idle for long periods, making them eligible for revenue-generating V2G applications; and just about everyone likes the idea of freeing schoolchildren from breathing diesel fumes.
The new report acknowledges that “ESBs may be more suitable for electrification than other vehicle sectors at this time,” but notes that “there are challenges to overcome for the market to advance. Currently, ESBs may still cost 300 percent more than an equivalent diesel-powered school bus, and although data suggests maintenance is much more affordable for ESBs, labor trained in electric drivetrains can be challenging to find in many areas of the country.”
Continued government funding is seen as critical, in order to “give time for ESB technology to mature and demand for ESBs to increase, consequently reducing the capital cost over time and allowing ESBs to reach cost parity with their diesel counterparts. Federal funding opportunities such as those outlined in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will play a major role in growing the ESB market, but support at the state and local levels will need to continue to ensure growth for the foreseeable future.”
A couple of other tidbits from the report:
- A majority of US states currently boast at least one or two electric school buses. The leading states for ESB deployment are California (which has 850 e-school buses), Maryland (331), and Florida (218).
- Some school districts are exploring alternative deployment models such as Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS) to mitigate the high upfront cost of ESBs.
CALSTART has launched an ongoing Electric School Bus Working Group to share up-to-date information and peer learnings among school districts nationwide.
Another CALSTART publication, Electric School Buses Market Study: A Synthesis of Current Technologies, Costs, Demonstrations, and Funding, from November 2021) found that “clean fuels” power only around 8% of the current US school bus fleet, and only 1% are EVs.