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HomeNewsRegional NewsEPA awards $51M for electric school buses in the Pacific Northwest

EPA awards $51M for electric school buses in the Pacific Northwest

The Center Square) – Washington state and Oregon are set to receive more than $51 million in federal funds for the purchase of 144 electric school buses across the Pacific Northwest.

The money, just a portion of the nearly $1 billion that will go to some 67 total applicants, breaks down like this:

  • Beaverton School District in Oregon will receive $19.75 million to purchase 50 buses.
  • First Student, Inc. – a provider of school bus services – will receive $16.5 million to purchase 46 buses for both states.
  • Bus dealer RWC Group will receive more than $11.1 million to purchase 33 buses across Washington.
  • Walla Walla Public Schools in Washington will receive $3.75 million to purchase 15 buses.

The Environmental Protection Agency made the announcement Tuesday as part of its Clean School Bus Grant Program.

“These awards supercharge Washington’s efforts to be a leader in converting to clean, quiet electric buses,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in an EPA news release. “I’ve proposed $30 million in my budget to fund 80 additional electric buses and charging infrastructure. Thanks to Sen. Murray, Administrator [Michael] Regan, EPA, and President [Joe] Biden for their partnership in building the future our children and communities deserve.”

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek was also excited about the prospect of electrifying her state’s fleet of school buses.

“Students across the state rely on school buses to get them to and from school safely every day,” she said. “The Clean School Bus grants announced by the Biden-Harris Administration will make those buses cleaner for more students. The grants will improve air quality to protect the health of our students and aid in our efforts to combat climate change in Oregon.”

The Clean School Bus Grant Program is part of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021, by President Biden. The program provided $5 billion in funding through 2026 for low- and zero-emission school buses.

In October 2022, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Seattle to tout the program and announce the initial award of nearly $1 billion to school districts to replace older, mostly diesel-powered buses with electric and cleaner-running models. That’s enough to order approximately 2,300  electric buses to be distributed among 372 school districts across the country.

As of November 2023, only 436 electric buses had been delivered and were in operation, according to the World Resource Institute’s Electric School Bus Initiative, with most districts having deployed only a handful of those vehicles.

Electric buses are a great way to reduce emissions, but they present some challenges that need to be addressed before they can be widely adopted.

One of the primary challenges to rolling out clean buses is building out adequate charging infrastructure that is critical to electric school bus fleet deployment. In many cases, there simply are not enough charging stations for electric buses

The high cost is another challenge with electric buses because they require more expensive batteries than diesel or gas buses. They also require more expensive maintenance because they have more complicated parts than fossil-fuel powered buses. In many cases, it can be difficult to find mechanics who know how to fix electric buses due to the shift in supply and demand.

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