Electric School Buses
2.3 million students, approximately 10 percent of our nation’s pupils, are transported to school on New York State’s 45,000 buses. Bringing zero emission school buses to the forefront of transportation in our State’s school districts is a critical health investment and demonstrates the benefits of clean energy, reducing harmful emissions and caring for the environment.
Zero emission school buses could be either battery-powered or hydrogen fuel cell-powered. However, there are no hydrogen fuel cell-powered school buses currently available and so at this point the State is focused on battery-powered electric school buses (ESBs).
Although ESBs have higher upfront costs than traditional diesel or gasoline-powered buses, the total cost of ownership is expected to reach parity by 2027 due to advances in battery technology, increased supply chain outputs, as well as lower fuel and maintenance expenses. To support school districts with the high initial costs of transitioning to zero-emissions buses, New York State has secured $500 million through the Environmental Bond Act, alongside existing State and federal programs that will go toward the incremental cost difference of electric school buses and charging infrastructure.
The long-term health benefits of clean transportation are well documented:
- The American Lung Association in New York has noted that moving the State's entire vehicle fleet to clean transportation would result in up to 159,000 avoided asthma attacks while generating $68.2 billion in public health benefits statewide.
- New York State's more than $1 billion investment in electrifying transportation is vital to delivering air quality improvements to underserved communities and supports New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent by 2050 and direct the benefits of clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities.
New York State’s fiscal year 2022-2023 budget established a nation-leading commitment for all new school buses purchased to be zero emission by 2027 and all school buses in operation to be electric by 2035. The budget includes funding to help districts transition to all-electric buses with an additional $500 million through the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022, which was overwhelmingly supported by voters in November 2022.
The State is leading the way with its legislative framework to require school bus fleet transition and making available funding to support this effort. NYSERDA can assist your school district or your district’s bus contractor with technical assistance to navigate the transition to an all-electric fleet.
Read the New York State Electric School Bus (ESB) Roadmap, which presents an overview of the key challenges, costs, funding mechanisms, and policy options involved in the effort to transition all school buses in New York State to zero-emission buses by 2035.
Read the New York State Electric School Bus (ESB) Guidebook, which provides helpful details on managing the transition to electric school buses.
Currently Available NYSERDA Programs
- New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program – makes it easier for fleets to adopt zero-emission vehicle technologies over older, dirty diesel engines
- Clean Green Schools Initiative (CGSI) – helps public schools lacking in resources for infrastructure improvements improve learning environments. Through this program schools are eligible for ‘Clean Transportation Studies’ which can help districts develop fleet transition plans. The program can cover up to 100% of the study, depending on need status and disadvantaged community status.
- FlexTech Program – provides a similar offering as CGSI, but is available for bus contractors as well. FlexTech covers up to 75% of the cost of ‘Clean Transportation Studies’ for schools, and up to 50% for contractors.
- Public Comment on Draft Bond Act Eligibility Criteria – NYSERDA is seeking comments on draft eligibility criteria for the upcoming funding for zero-emission school buses made available through the Environmental Bond Act. Comments are due September 1, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. ET.
- Clean School Bus Program - With funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers rebate and grant funding to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models. Applications for Clean School Bus Program Grants are due on August 22, 2023.
- Medium- and Heavy-Duty EV Make Ready Pilot - by Joint Utilities of New York, this pilot program can provide incentives of up to 90% of utility-side infrastructure costs to mitigate the cost of developing EV charging capacity. The Pilot focuses particularly on disadvantaged communities (DACs). Funds for incentives are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
How to Get Started
- Connect with NYSERDA to apply for technical assistance through NYSERDA’s Clean Green Schools, FlexTech and NY Truck Voucher Incentive programs.
- Contact your local utility to discuss electrifying your school district fleet, and if your utility is part of the Joint Utilities of New York (Central Hudson, Con Edison, National Grid, New York State Electric and Gas, Rochester Gas and Electric, and Orange and Rockland), complete the Fleet Assessment Questionnaire to see if your utility can provide assistance in planning for your fleet conversion.
- Learn about available technology by connecting with school bus dealers and nearby districts who are operating electric buses.
- Research available federal, state, and utility-led incentive programs including the New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program, which can cover up to 100% of the incremental cost of an electric school bus over a comparable diesel model. With participation in this program, school districts may also be eligible for the Medium and Heavy-Duty Make Ready Pilot, which can cover up to 90% of the costs to install charging (excluding purchase of the chargers).
For additional information or questions about zero-emission school buses, send an email to [email protected] for more information.