Green is the New Yellow: Electric School Buses are Rolling into the Southeast

Ashleigh Sherman | January 2, 2024 | Clean Energy Generation, Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles

Buckle up; the Clean Energy Generation is driving major change right here in the Southeast with the push to electrify our region’s school buses.

Studies show that children riding inside traditional diesel school buses are exposed to up to four times the level of diesel exhaust as someone riding in a car ahead of the bus. The health implications include increased risk for asthma and viral illnesses, damage to children’s and teens’ lung growth, and even impaired learning at school, with lower test scores and more behavioral incidents. Diesel bus emissions add to the air pollution levels in the community as well, affecting everyone’s health.

In 2022, the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program began to provide $5 billion over five years (FY 2022-2026) to replace existing school buses with cleaner, healthier zero-emission and low-emission models. The initial funding opportunity was for $500 million, however, due to overwhelming demand for the program, the EPA nearly doubled its funding for the rebates. In the program’s first year, the EPA awarded up to $965 million to fund school bus replacements at nearly 400 schools.

School districts in the Southeast are jumping on board. In total during the first year of the EPA program, Southern states were awarded $163,215,000. South Carolina and Georgia were the third and sixth, respectively, highest-awarded states in the country.

Now that electric school buses are rolling into our communities, here are just a handful of news stories from recent months showing how schools in the Southeast are charging ahead.

Middle photo of Proterra assembly plant in Greenville, S.C, courtesy of Proterra

The push to electrify the nation’s school buses

Almost 500,000 school buses in the U.S. move roughly 25 million schoolchildren an estimated 4 million miles a year. 90% of them run on diesel, releasing 5 million tons of carbon emissions into our communities. But all that’s starting to change, thanks in part to a $5 billion investment through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. School bus maker Blue Bird is playing an important role in electrifying our nation’s transportation sector from their Georgia location, as shown in this segment from CBS Saturday Morning. Watch more.

South Carolina emerges as a leader in electric school buses

South Carolina is embracing electric school buses faster than many states in the U.S. The state aims to run 500 clean, electric school buses by 2027. Federal legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act financially aid the transition to electric school buses nationwide. South Carolina is leveraging the cost savings of this clean transportation for kids. Read more.

Two metro Atlanta school systems to receive electric buses

Atlanta Public Schools were awarded $9.9 million in federal investments for electric school buses. The new electric buses will reduce the current fleet’s carbon emissions and improve the health of the students riding them. SACE’s Climate Advocacy Coordinator, Cary Ritzler, shared, “A diesel bus will be emitting fumes as it drives through the neighborhood outside of the bus, and also fumes that come inside of the bus and expose children inside, on the bus, up to four times the amount that a regular vehicle would. An electric vehicle will have none of those emissions.” Read more.

Miami-Dade adds 20 new electric school buses to fleet ahead of new school year

Miami-Dade County Public School students are heading back-to-school in electric style. The Florida school district recently added 20 electric buses and seven electric vans to their fleet of 1,000. This project was the brainchild of 6th grader Holly Thorpe, who completed a science project measuring the pollution caused by traditional diesel-fueled engines on buses. Read more.

Durham’s Maureen Joy Charter School makes history with fleet of all electric buses

The Maureen Joy Charter School in Durham, North Carolina purchased four electric buses, with plans to add four more next year. “The amount of money we were spending on diesel, it was just this pit of money that we couldn’t spend. We want to spend it on our children and not fixing some transportation,” said a Maureen Joy representative. Read more.

Queen City school buses are going electric

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is rolling into the new year in electric style. The North Carolina school district is taking its first steps towards school bus electrification by adding three electric school buses and three chargers to its fleet using funds from the state’s Volkswagen Settlement. Home to North Carolina’s largest school bus fleet and the nation’s 10th largest school bus fleet, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools transports 105,000 students each day. Read more.

Follow along each week

These stories highlight just a few of the positive things happening in our area! Every day we see signs of hope. The Clean Energy Generation is creating a future powered by clean energy that leads to clean air and water, good jobs, and vibrant communities.

Would you like to see more stories like this? We’ve got just the thing for you! Every Thursday, we share the latest clean energy news on Instagram with #CleanEnergyNews. Join us as we celebrate the progress and signs of hope in the clean energy transition.

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Ashleigh Sherman
Ashleigh Sherman is the SACE Digital Communications Manager. She oversees the strategy behind and management of our social media accounts, leveraging SACE’s digital channels to drive awareness, engagement, and action.…
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