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Popular yellow school buses can be turned into a force for good on climate change

Transport accounts for at least 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, about eight billion tons of carbon each year. With Tesla rising, General Motors is committed to phasing out gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, and other major automakers poised to follow suit, the electric vehicle era will soon be upon us. One particular EV segment is ready for electrification: the small school bus. In the case where passenger cars still haven’t reached the price and performance level of internal combustion engines, and long-haul trucks are waiting for more powerful batteries, forward-thinking school districts have turned to electric buses. . About 40,000 new school buses buy every year. If counties only buy electricity from this point on, the entire nation’s fleet could be transformed within a decade or so. All-electric school buses will cut US carbon emissions by more than 5 million tons, equivalent to get rid of a million cars from the road. It will be a tangible boost to the planet, our neighborhoods and our children.
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This is not just a niche market. In the US alone, nearly half a million buses carry 26 million children over 4 billion miles each year. Since school buses are used for relatively short distances and only a few hours a day, the main barriers to electrification — limited range and charging infrastructure — have been neutralized. In short, school buses are specifically designed for electrification. And while electric buses have a significantly higher list price than diesel-powered ones, they save up to 80% on fuel, maintenance and repair. In terms of total cost of ownership, within 12 years of a typical vehicle’s life, school districts could really be ahead. The momentum will only increase with continuous innovation in battery technology.

Besides cutting greenhouse gas emissions and providing a stable, long-term economy, electric school buses help eliminate toxic pollution and smog. Follow International Center for Research on Cancer, diesel fumes are “carcinogenic to humans.” They are linked to asthma, chronic respiratory disease, and premature death. As the Environmental Protection Agency has noted, particulate pollution is most dangerous for children, “who have faster breathing rates than adults and whose lungs are not fully developed.” Diesel emissions are a significant source of student illness and absenteeism. It also poisons bus drivers and maintenance workers. When the buses are idle, they take away the noise and noxious soot of our neighborhoods. It’s time to say goodbye to them.

Currently, only 1% of school buses in the US are electric. But the future is now in Montgomery County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC with more than a million residents. The local school district has contract for replacement 25 older diesel buses with electric models this year and three hundred more within three years, the largest single rollout in North America to date. By 2035, the county plans to convert its entire fleet — more than 1,400 vehicles — to EVs. To accommodate the higher prices of new buses and keep the contract budget neutral, the district entered into a comprehensive lease with Highland electric transportation, a startup in Massachusetts. For a flat fee, Highland offers e-buses, five charging depots and electricity. The ultimate goal is to power the system with 100% renewable, zero-emissions holy grail.

At the national level, the e-bus movement is a grassroots coalition of policymakers, school officials, parents and students. In Phoenix, the cross-country team at South Mountain High School teamed up with their coach and advocacy organization Chispa to promote the district’s purchase of the district’s first electric bus. In Miami, after 12-year-old Holly Thorpe persistently pushed the county school board, it recently approved the county’s plan to replace 50 diesel-powered buses with electric ones. Momentum is building. President Biden’s infrastructure package includes $2.5 billion for electric school bus. The Bezos Earth Foundation joined in with a $37.5 million endowment.

Making all new school buses electric is a realistic goal with lasting climate benefits and immediate payoffs to our children’s health. And while we’re at it, why not electrify the nation’s 65,000 city transit buses?

This essay is part of a series on specific goals the world should aim for by 2022 to help us avert disaster related to climate change. Read the rest here

https://time.com/6138439/american-school-bus-electric-climate-change/ Popular yellow school buses can be turned into a force for good on climate change

Aila Slisco

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