Everything You Should Know: Electrifying School Bus Fleets
Electric vehicles (EVs) are not just growing in popularity for consumer vehicles. Fleets across the United States are adding EVs to their operations, including school bus fleets. With programs like The Clean School Bus Program, schools now have access to $5 billion in funding to switch to zero and low-emission vehicles.
As of now, electric school buses only make up 1% of the United State's school bus fleet. Electrifying a bus fleet can be complicated, so we are breaking down the basics of getting started.
Why Should You Electrify Your School Bus Fleet?
There are many benefits of school bus electrification. Cost savings, cleaner air, future readiness, and education are some of the benefits of electrifying your bus fleet.
Electric bus fleets have lower operational and maintenance costs compared to diesel buses. Electricity is less expensive than gas and diesel. Based on research from schools with electric school buses, it was found that schools save between $5,000-$10,000 annually with electric buses.
Switching to an electric bus uses about 60% less fossil fuels than a traditional school bus. Electric buses do not emit any exhaust fumes while idling which is healthier for the children and the community. Promote and protect the welfare of your students and the environment by eliminating a massive source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Utilizing electric buses gives schools the opportunity to educate their students and teachers about new technologies. It gives the community experience with electric vehicles and prepares them for the future of green technology. Lead your community by example by showcasing electric school buses first hand.
Funding for School Bus Electrification
The first step after making the decision to switch to battery electric buses is to look for funding programs and rebates. There are a variety of programs and rebates for electric school bus initiatives depending on which state you are in.
The United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA), recently announced the opening of applications for the 2023 Clean School Bus (CSB) Rebates. This rebate is helping schools pay for the transition costs of electric school buses or zero-emission (ZE) vehicles. The CSB Rebate helps pay for the vehicles, charging infrastructure, workforce training, and other costs associated with electrification. EPA's program overview breaks down what the qualifications are and the application process.
The Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program is another program that can help cover electrification costs. This program provides funding to develop community facilities in rural areas. Different funding options are available including low-interest loans, grants, or a combination of the two.
In addition to these national programs, you should consult your state's funding opportunities for electrification. With SparkCharge as your EV charging partner during electrification, we help identify potential funding opportunities that you are eligible for. Talk to our team of experts to learn more about how SparkCharge can help you unlock government funding opportunities.
These are some of the programs available for different states in the United States.
As part of its FY23 budget, the state approved a nation-leading $1.5 billion in ESB funding. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) administers the Clean School Bus Program, which provides a variety of grants, vouchers, and rebates to replace older diesel school buses with electric buses, install charging infrastructure, and retrofit devices and power systems.
The Mid-Atlantic Electric School Bus Experience Project (M.E.E.P) is a programs for schools in the DC area to try out one or multiple electric school buses for a 6-8 week period.
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) is currently advancing school bus electrification with the Accelerating Clean Transportation (ACT) program providing $18.3 million in funding for fleet deployment and advisory services. Applications open in October 2023.
Procuring EV Charging Infrastructure
Before you purchase your vehicles, you should determine how you plan to charge them. Procuring EV charging infrastructure can feel like a daunting task. Understanding and anticipating your EV fleet needs are essential to successful electrification.
To understand the needs of your electric buses you'll need to analyze routes, charge times, and range. The daily mileage and the range of the electric bus will help you understand what level of charging you need.
There are three main levels of EV charging; Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 (DC fast charging). Level 1 charges at a rate that is too slow to keep up with daily use. Level 2 charging stations are faster but still take up to 24 hours to fully charge. Level 2 charging stations also typically require electrical work and grid updates during installation.
Level 3 (DC fast charging) is the fastest Level of EV charging. It can charge a standard EV in about 30 minutes - 1 hour. This is optimal for keeping vehicles charged throughout the day.
There are a number of other things to consider when purchasing EV infrastructure for electric school buses. When they are going to charge will also help determine what type of charging station is right for your fleet. Supply chain delays and increased demand has resulted in long lead times for EVSE, making it difficult for schools to gain access to fixed charging infrastructure.
What are the best chargers for electric school bus fleets?
Some areas in the United States are seeing lead times of up to 2+ years for electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). This is delaying EV adoption for fleets and consumers. SparkCharge is on a mission to be the solution to the hurdles of EV charging. SparkCharge has created a portable DC fast EV charger that enables schools to gain access to turnkey EV charging.
SparkCharge's portable EV chargers are grid-free and can be brought directly to the vehicle wherever it is parked. This means that you can have EV charging infrastructure on your lot regardless of grid connection capabilities. SparkCharge’s EV chargers keep costs low, so schools can electrify their buses without the high costs of equipment and installation that comes with fixed infrastructure.
After finding an electric school bus charging solution, you're ready to purchase your buses.
Educating Your Team
Operating and maintaining an electric bus fleet is quite a change from ICE vehicles. Drivers will need to be educated on charging best practices and EV maintenance.
Performing practice routes and EV charging demos is a great way to get started. Allow team members time to adjust to the change and provide them with some educational resources.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) offers a course for schools implementing electric buses, "Flipping the Switch on Electric School Buses". There are courses available for driver training, cost factors, charging infrastructure, and more.Electric school bus adoption can be a difficult task. SparkCharge helps navigate the electrification process to make the transition as seamless and convenient as possible. Get started by talking to a team member today!