California is Deploying Hundreds of Electric School Buses to Reduce Children’s Exposure to Harmful Emissions

Hundreds of old California diesel-powered school busses are set to be replaced by all-electric vehicles thanks to new state funding.

This week, the California Energy Commission has approved close to $70 million in funding to replace more than 200 polluting school busses with all-electric busses that will reduce the exposure of school children to harmful emissions and help the state achieve its climate and air quality objectives.

“School buses are by far the safest way for kids to get to school – but diesel-powered buses are not safe for kids’ developing lungs, which are particularly vulnerable to harmful air pollution,” said Energy Commissioner Patty Monahan. “Making the transition to electric school buses that don’t emit pollution provides children and their communities with cleaner air and numerous public health benefits.

“The Energy Commission is proud to support this transition to protect the health of children throughout the state, something that will help all Californians breathe easier,” she added.

The School Bus Replacement Program of the Energy Commission provides over $94 million to districts of public schools, county education offices, and joint power authorities to assist in the transition from diesel school buses to zero-or low-emission vehicles. Together with approved funding this week, the Energy Commission has awarded schools in 26 counties in California $89.8 million of the program’s funding.

The electric busses approved today will eliminate nearly 57,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides and nearly 550 pounds of annual emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Most of the awards from the Energy Commission support buses in disadvantaged low-income communities that are disproportionately affected by poor air quality air pollution and health issues. In disadvantaged communities, 90% of the electric busses that will be distributed through the new program will operate.

The switch to electric will save schools money in fuel and repair costs in addition to the health benefits. Schools are estimated by the Energy Commission to save nearly $120,000 in fuel and maintenance costs per bus over 20 years.

Diesel buses emit harmful pollutants, including fine particles capable of lodging deep in the lungs and entering the bloodstream. Because children’s lungs are still developing, children are more susceptible to adverse health effects associated with air pollution, including lung damage and asthma attacks, due to their faster breathing rate and other factors. Scientists have even found that these fine particles can cause asthma in healthy children.

There are a number of state initiatives to replace diesel school busses to help protect this vulnerable population – largely with electric busses.

These efforts include the California Climate Investments (CCI) initiative, which puts billions of dollars in cap-and-trade to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen the economy, and improve public health and the environment. CCI-funded projects to put electric school busses on the road include the Rural School Bus Pilot Project of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project, and the Community Air Protection Programme. CARB’s Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program also helps fund electric school buses.

The Energy Commission is using funds from the California Clean Energy Jobs Act, also known as Proposition 39, to provide schools with electric buses. Proposition 39 is a voter-approved initiative that adjusted the corporate income tax code and allocated revenues to school districts for energy improvements.

Over five years, Proposition 39 K-12 of the Energy Commission has awarded schools more than $1.7 billion to plan and install energy efficiency upgrades and measures for clean energy generation.

The Clean Transportation Program of the Energy Commission, also known as the Program for Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology, will provide the charging infrastructure to support buses purchased through the School Bus Replacement Program. The Clean Transportation Program will also fund drivers and maintenance technicians ‘ workforce training and development opportunities.

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