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All About Electric School Buses

ESBs benefit students, school districts, communities, and the environment

New York State’s school bus fleets are going electric. By 2027, all new school buses sold will be zero-emission—and by 2035, the State will have converted its entire school bus fleet to electric school buses, or ESBs. This important transition will reduce emissions that can harm our kids’ health, pollute the air in our communities, and contribute to climate change.

Here's everything you need to know about New York’s transition to electric school buses, including ESB benefits, how they work, charging requirements, and available funding for school districts.

Why Electric School Buses?

  • Healthier schools and communities: Diesel- and gasoline-powered engines emit significant quantities of air pollutants like particular matter, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide—all of which are associated with chronic health conditions; [1]  When idling, diesel buses release harmful emissions that can enter the cabin and impact the air quality for students and drivers. These emissions also affect communities located near school bus depots and bus routes. Electric school buses produce zero tailpipe emissions—ensuring cleaner air for our kids as they travel to and from school. The results are real: moving New York State’s entire vehicle fleet to zero-emission transportation will result in up to 159,000 avoided asthma attacks statewide, annually, according to the American Lung Association. [2]
  • Lower greenhouse gas emissions: Across the lifecycle of a school bus, fully electric models are responsible for substantially fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gas- or diesel-powered buses. Meanwhile, combustion-engine school buses, which currently make up the majority of New York State’s fleet, emit approximately 1.5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Electrifying 10,000 school buses (roughly 25% of the State’s school bus fleet) alone would be equivalent to removing almost 40,000 passenger vehicles from the road.     
  • Powered by a clean energy grid: By charging on New York State’s increasingly renewable energy grid, electric school buses tap into a cheaper, cleaner, and local energy source. New York’s grid will achieve 70% renewably sourced electricity by 2030 and a zero-emission electric system by 2040. [3]
  • Lower operation and maintenance costs: Though ESBs cost more to purchase upfront, they are cheaper to operate and maintain. The initial cost of an ESB may be largely offset by lower fueling costs and less maintenance requirements over the bus’s useful life. These savings can vary but typically range from a few thousand dollars to more than $10,000 per bus, per year. [4]
  • Fundings and incentives for school districts: New Yorkers overwhelmingly passed the Environmental Bond Act in November 2022, which includes $500 million to support the transition to zero-emission school buses. And many more sources of federal and state funding and incentives are available to help school districts.
  • Quieter, cleaner buses: Electric buses do not produce engine noise and are far quieter than diesel-and gasoline-powered buses. This results in a quieter ride for students and drivers, and less noise pollution in our communities. [5]
  • Clean air, green jobs: the transition to electric buses will also help NY stay competitive and build a homegrown green economy by offering new employment opportunities for future generations. Electric buses are such a pleasure to drive that we may even see renewed interest in school bus driving as a job choice.

What to Know About Electric School Buses

How Electric School Buses Work

Electric school buses use a battery rather than an internal combustion engine. The bus’s battery serves as its engine, transmission, and fuel tank, harnessing energy from New York’s increasingly renewable electric grid to power our students’ commute to school. ESB ranges stretch from 100 to 300 miles—enough for most bus routes since the average school bus in New York State travels 80 miles per day. Since most school buses return to a bus depot, they can usually be charged overnight, lowering fueling costs and reducing fueling logistics.

The market for electric school buses is growing quickly, and domestic manufacturers offer ESBs across the classic categories of school buses: Type A, Type C, and Type D. Type C bus models, full-length buses with “truck front” design, are the most prevalent ESB model, and Type A models, which are smaller and built to carry 10-25 passengers, are gaining popularity in ESB format. All-electric retrofit, or “repower” buses, are made by converting existing diesel and gasoline buses to electric and can provide a helpful option for transitioning to a zero-emission fleet while getting the most out of recently purchased vehicles.

Charging Electric School Buses

Electric school buses rely on electric vehicle chargers to recharge their batteries. ESBs use either level 2 or level 3 chargers.

  • Level 2 chargers provide ESBs with lower speed charging at a moderate cost. It takes between 6 and 11 hours for most level 2 chargers to fully charge an ESB, making overnight charging ideal.
  • Level 3 chargers, also known as direct current fast chargers (DCFCs), provide significantly faster charge speeds but at a higher cost than Level 2 chargers. Level 3 chargers can typically fully charge an ESB in 2 to 4.5 hours.



Electric Buses for a Cleaner New York

Transitioning New York’s school bus fleet to 100% electric operation by 2035, a deadline established in the April 2022 State Budget, directly supports the Climate Act goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85% by 2050. In November of 2022, New Yorkers overwhelmingly passed the Bond Act, which includes $500 million in funding to support this transition to an all-electric, zero-emission school bus fleet. These funding incentives will be vital for school districts and administrators as they work to transition their school bus fleets to ESBs.



  1. World Resources Institute (2023). “Electric School Buses Can Fight — Or Further — Inequity In the US.” Retrieved from: https://www.wri.org/insights/electric-school-buses-equity-us Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page.
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  2. American Lung Association (2022) “Zeroing in on Healthy Air” https://www.lung.org/getmedia/13248145-06f0-4e35-b79b-6dfacfd29a71/zeroing-in-on-healthy-air-report-2022.pdf  [PDF]
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  3. Electric School Bus Initiative (2022): “Why We Need to Transition to Electric School Buses” Retrieved from: https://electricschoolbusinitiative.org/why-we-need-transition-electric-school-buses#:~:text=Electric%20school%20buses%20represent%20a,dangers%20of%20diesel%20exhaust%20pollution.  (opens in new window)
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  4. New York State Electric School Bus Roadmap (2023). “Market Cost Projections.” from:  https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Electric-School-Buses/Electric-School-Buses/Electric-School-Bus-Roadmap
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  5. Fleet Equipment Magazine (2021).“Electric Truck Regenerative Braking, Explained” Retrieved from: https://www.fleetequipmentmag.com/electric-truck-regenerative-braking-explained  Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. 
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For more detailed information on electric school buses, charging, or the Bond Act, see the Electric School Bus Guidebook. 

Read the Guidebook