Wendy Drumm and the Fairhaven Sustainability Committee
Ever had a school bus growling in front of your house, belching diesel?
Well, good news. Goodbye nasty diesel — eventually kids will ride healthy, energy friendly, quiet electric school buses.
Electric School buses are being integrated into fleets across America, including New Bedford and Fall River which got their first round of Federal Funding.
School buses are the transportation mode of choice by about a third of school-aged kids, with more than 50 million trips per day
Today most school buses are diesel powered. Exhaust from buses contributes to air quality problems and has a negative impact on human health, especially for children, who have a faster breathing rate than adults, and whose lungs are not fully developed. Respiratory disease, heart disease, cancer and physical problems can harm a student’s cognitive development, affecting test scores.
Students from low-income families are particularly vulnerable since 60% ride a bus to school compared to 45% of students from higher income families. (World Resources Institute: electric school bus initiative.)
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $5 Billion over the next 5 years (FY22-26) to clean many of the nearly 500,000 national school buses, and infrastructure assistance. There are Massachusetts, and Eversource new EV utility funds available. Cleaner electric bus replacements will produce zero tail pipe emissions. The result is cleaner air on the bus, in bus loading areas, less noise and safer breathing where they operate. (EPA October 2022). Plus, we benefit from reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Driver feedback indicates that a quiet interior is actually calming for the children.
Electric Bus maintenance costs are about half those of diesel. For example, less brake wear due to regenerative braking and no engine or exhaust system maintenance. (EPA)
However new electric buses cost significantly more, need regular charging (2-8 hours) and when needed a new battery is very expensive. Major efforts are being made on processes to recycle batteries.
Amy McGuire from Highland Electric Fleets in Beverly, a leader in public-private partnerships, relates how Highland is taking New Bedford, Fall River and other towns through the process of conversion: “Highland conveniently provides full service to transition a fleet. This is a journey that takes about 12-24 months to being in operation. From planning to funding awarded, to setting up infrastructure and operations plans, to charging infrastructure, to testing to training to fleet deployment. And 24/7 service.”
Robert Espindola, (Fairhaven Select Board) said, “I support the move to EV that the government is providing incentives for…if the conditions are right for Fairhaven.”
There are now about 13,000 committed electric school buses in 38 states. Our community values student and community health. There is a good economic argument for town budget savings. It takes the community’s education stakeholders, government, parents, commissions and citizens to form a strong advocacy group; to focus on transitioning our school bus fleet to electric vehicles.
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