What first comes to mind when you think about school bus transportation? Perhaps it’s the orange or yellow color, the sound of one passing by your home, or the dot moving on the map on your phone as you watch your child’s commute to school. What may not yet come to mind, however, is a quiet, emissions-free electric school bus.
Since school buses transport millions of students to and from school every day throughout the school year, they may be the most critical vehicles on the road. What if there was a way to make their commute safer, healthier, and more efficient? There may be, and per the benefits, we explore below, the answer may point to electric school buses.
Improved Health and Safety
- Cleaner Air for Passengers
According to an article by Environmental Defense, exposure to various pollutants from inside a diesel school bus is five to six times greater than ambient levels and three times higher than someone walking to school. The exposure to pollutants inside the bus, called self-pollution, occurs because the bus's tailpipe emissions are reentering into the cabin. Because there are no tailpipe emissions on electric vehicles, an electric bus's air quality inside (and outside) is significantly improved.
- Reduced Health Risk
Electric school buses may reduce asthma symptoms and other respiratory issues since they do not emit exhaust. However, air pollutants such as diesel exhaust can trigger or worsen asthma attacks. Another scary condition to which diesel exhaust is a contributor is cancer. Diesel exhaust is internationally recognized as a carcinogen and recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a substance that likely causes cancer.
- More Reliable Transportation
Electric vehicles have fewer moving parts; therefore, there are fewer parts to deteriorate or break. This can mean that electric buses are more reliable, especially for longer bus routes and traffic considerations.
- Quieter Commute
Electric vehicles are much quieter than gas or diesel-powered vehicles, making the inside of buses less noisy as well. Driving a quieter school bus could mean that bus drivers can better hear and communicate with students and better hear their surroundings (such as a siren).
- Cleaner Air
Exchanging one diesel school bus with an electric school bus can lower greenhouse gas emissions by over 50,000 pounds per year. The air quality of an area dramatically improves with the lack of diesel fuel exhaust emissions. Cleaner air benefits other commuters, surrounding plants and wildlife, and the community.
- Quieter Roadways
Since electric vehicles don’t make much noise, they don’t contribute to the nuisance of “noise pollution.” Noise pollution is any environmental noise that is unwanted and disturbing. Traffic and regular vehicles fall into this category.
- Continuously Lessening the Environmental Impact
While pollution is created in producing electric vehicles, the amount varies depending on the process, company, location, and other factors. Manufacturers are continuously finding new ways to produce and operate electric vehicles more cleanly and efficiently. This also includes the electric grids from which the batteries are charged.
Lower Operation Cost
- Better “Gas” Mileage
Electric school buses require less energy and cost to operate. If you compare an electric school bus’s “gas mileage” to that of a diesel school bus, electric gets the equivalent of 17 miles per gallon, while the diesel gets approximately 6 miles per gallon. Additionally, electricity is less expensive than diesel fuel and has more predictable prices.
- Less Maintenance Cost
Gas and diesel-powered vehicles require frequent maintenance such as oil changes and tune-ups and component replacements such as the water pump and fuel pump. However, since electric vehicles don’t need much maintenance, the maintenance cost savings of an electric school bus versus a diesel school bus is nearly 60%. The operation cost savings can offset the initial investment of an electric school bus, which is more than that of a diesel school bus.
- Healthcare Savings
By reducing air pollution, moving to electric vehicles is expected to create significant savings in overall healthcare.
Other Benefits and FAQ’s
How long will the electric batteries in electric buses last?
The electric batteries are expected to last for the life of the bus or about 12-15 years.
What happens with the battery after it can no longer be used?
Most electric school buses will use a lithium-ion battery which can be recycled after use.
Will an electric school bus be able to complete a bus route before needing to charge again?
A typical school bus route one-way is 30-40 miles. The electric school buses can travel between 100-135 miles between charges, giving more than enough energy to complete a daily route.
How long does it take to charge the bus’s battery fully?
It depends on the bus and the size of the charging station, though it typically takes about 6-8 hours. This timeframe makes overnight charging convenient for schools.
What about all the other diesel and gas cars on the road?
While we can’t control the types of transportation citizens use, communities can choose the type of transportation their schools operate.
Electric school buses are quickly becoming a priority for cities and government officials, and with the long list of advantages, they may become a priority for parents as well. As electric vehicles become more common, the benefits of electric school buses on the health of children and communities, safety, lower long-term costs for schools are becoming more apparent.