Colorado Governor Jared Polis has signed into law SB 193, an air-quality bill which among other things creates a $65 million grant program for electric school buses in the state.
A number of states and cities have committed to buying electric school buses, with thousands planned nationwide. Some places have targeted a move to 100% electric school buses in coming years, with Boston targeting 2030, New York State committing to 2035, and Nevada making a 2050 pledge. Colorado hasn’t pledged a timeline for full electrification of school buses yet, but this grant should kickstart many districts to start making progress.
Pollution from fossil fuel vehicles causes myriad health problems throughout the population, and children are particularly susceptible as their bodies and minds develop. Traffic-related pollution causes 2 million new cases of childhood asthma per year. Children are exposed to this pollution from school buses as they ride in, board, and exit them and as the buses drive through their communities.
The vast majority of school buses run on diesel fuel, but school districts can save children’s lungs and also save money on fuel and maintenance by switching to electric school buses. The Electrification Coalition, which lauded Colorado’s move today, has created the “Dashboard for Rapid Vehicle Electrification” or “DRVE” tool that districts can use to analyze the savings available from electrification.
That said, replacing diesel buses can also have high upfront costs for school districts, particularly if their diesel fleet hasn’t yet reached end of life. This grant fund doesn’t just target purchases of new electric school buses, but also conversion of old diesel buses to electric if possible, and retiring of diesel buses early when feasible.
Colorado’s grant program gives priority to underserved school districts and disproportionately impacted communities in recognition of the fact that pollution typically harms these communities the most.
The Biden administration created a $5 billion Clean School Bus Program just last month, freeing up $500 million worth of funding to states for this year. The deadline for this year’s application for federal funding is August 19, but Colorado’s funding plan should help school districts have another avenue for funding if their federal application doesn’t get accepted.
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