Michigan schools receive $24 million to buy electric buses

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The switch to electric buses will reduce diesel pollution near schools, which harms student health by slowing lung development and aggravating asthma and heart disease. Diesel vehicles also emit planet-warming greenhouse gasses.

More than 800,000 Michigan students take the bus to school, mostly in diesel-powered vehicles that often don’t comply with modern air quality standards. 

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Zachary Kolodin, the state’s chief infrastructure officer, lauded the bus rebates as a pathway toward “a safer and cleaner ride to school for students, while reducing costs for schools, allowing them to put dollars back into the classroom.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that if half of the nation’s buses switched to electric, carbon emissions would decline by 2.1 million tons — the equivalent of taking 456,000 cars off the road.

But that’s a long way off.

In Michigan, the new funding will bring the state’s total to 200 or so electric buses, out of a fleet of 17,000.

Grand Rapids was the biggest winner, with $5.1 million to replace 15 buses. The other 27 districts include Troy School District, which is receiving $400,000 to purchase the district’s first-ever electric buses. 

Fabrice Smieliaskas, founding parent member of dstrict’s sustainability committee, said the switch is environmentally and economically smart because after the initial purchase cost, electric buses are cheaper to maintain and fuel.

“I think soon we’ll see all districts starting to adopt EVs,” Smieliaskas said. “This could be a prime driver of the electrification of vehicles in our state.”

Nationally, the EPA made awards to 530 school districts across almost every state and several Tribes to purchase 3,400 clean buses. The vast majority are electric. 

But supporters of the program also said schools need continued funding in order to make a full transition to zero emission buses.

A single EV schoolbus can cost upwards of $400,000. 

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