Speaking from Seattle's Lumen Field on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris hyped up the Biden administration's plan to invest nearly $1 billion in helping schools replace diesel-powered school buses with zero- and low-emission alternatives.
“Who doesn’t love a yellow school bus?” Harris asked. “It’s part of our experience growing up, it’s part of a nostalgia, a memory of the excitement and joy of going to school to be with your favorite teacher, to be with your friends and to learn.”
The billion-dollar investment is the first installment out of $5 billion total that will be funneled through the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program over the next five years. The funds will be doled out through 391 rebates to school systems across the country to purchase 2,463 buses. Approximately 95 percent of those buses will be electric.
The Clean Bus Program is a piece of the massive Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which, among other initiatives, aims to decarbonize the nation's infrastructure to combat climate change.
“What we’re announcing today is a step forward in our nation’s commitment to be a leader on these issues, to reduce greenhouse gasses, to invest in our economy, to invest in job creation, to invest in building the skills of America’s workforce,” Harris said.
Out of a fleet of 500,000 school buses nationwide, roughly 95 percent run on diesel, according to the White House.
Manufacturers of electric buses commended the program, as it will send new customers to an industry that has exploded in size over the past year. U.S. school districts and fleet operators in 38 states have made formal commitments to purchase 12,270 electric school buses, according to data from nonprofit researcher World Resources Institute (WRI).
This is up from a paltry 8o commitments back in 2017.
”Blue Bird is poised to meet increasing demand and continues to ramp up electric school bus production to 20 vehicles a day by 2023,” said Matthew Stevenson, president and CEO of the Blue Bird Corporation, a manufacturer of school buses, in a press release.
In addition to the federal support, local governments have also played a part in driving the adoption of electric school buses. Many of the purchases are clustered in California and the mid-Atlantic region, where school districts have taken the initiative. New York City, for example, has committed to fully replacing its diesel-powered fleet by 2035.
Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, meanwhile, announced earlier this month the delivery of 61 additional electric buses, which the school district said gives it the largest fleet of electric buses in the country.