Schools Welcome Electric Buses, but Aren’t Sure About Owning Them

When Tim Shannon became the director of transportation for Twin Rivers School District in 2014, he inherited what he calls the “oldest, most decrepit fleet in the entire nation.” Buses were continually breaking down, but Shannon didn’t have much of a budget to replace them. But a meeting with a self-described electric bus evangelist clued him into a range of ways the California school district could get funding for buying new buses — provided they were electric.

A lot of meetings, supportive letters from politicians and at least one 280-page grant application later, Twin Rivers ended up at the forefront of switching to electric school buses, with 57 buses on the road, almost 40 percent of its entire fleet.

Electric school buses have been slow to take off across the country, despite their benefits: cutting greenhouse gas emissions, avoiding diesel air pollution around students as well as lower operating costs. But the up-front cost has held otherwise willing school districts back. Prices for electric school buses can be as much as three times as traditional diesel buses.

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