School districts across New York will be receiving almost $70 million in federal funding for electric school buses, via a grant awarded through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Bus rebate competition. It is part of a $1 billion investment from the bipartisan infrastructure law.
New York state has made commitments to having all electric school buses by 2035. One challenge with climate-change initiatives is the initial investment in the new technology.
William Reinhardt, Albany County legislator and former project manager at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said this isn’t new territory, especially as solar paved the way.
“We’re already seeing this with batteries, and we’ve already seen it over the last ten years with solar,” Reinhardt pointed out. “The cost per watt of an installed solar has gone way down, way down. And it’s much more economical than most people realize now, ’cause their mind is still back ten years ago when it was really expensive.”
Electric buses are not entirely new to the state. Currently, electric buses have been implemented in mass transit systems, since they cover greater mileage than a school bus. The EPA grants will help school districts purchase more than 2,400 electric school buses to speed the transition to zero-emissions vehicles.
While many are embracing the push to electric buses, there have been parents concerned about electric fires occurring on the new buses. Reinhardt likened it to feeling safer with the devil you know than the devil you don’t, although he understands their concerns. He added education is needed to ensure people and children riding the new buses fully understand the need.
“The kids are our future, and we need to surround them with examples of what the future needs to be,” Reinhardt asserted. “That means electric buses, not the dirty buses, it means renewable energy at your schools, and in curriculums, so they’re learning about this future that we all have to embrace.”
Parents’ fears have some basis in reality. Earlier this year, an electric bus in Connecticut caught fire while parked at a bus depot. Although experts consider it a rare occurrence, CT Transit took its remaining electric bus fleet out of service until a cause of the fire is determined. The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation is still ongoing.
Edwin is a reporter and producer in North Tonawanda, New York. He’s previously reported for the Niagara Gazette and the Ithaca Times. Edwin got an early start in radio interning for WBFO-88.7FM, NPR’s Buffalo affiliate. In 2018, he graduated from SUNY Buffalo State College with a B.A. in Journalism, and in 2022, graduated from Syracuse University with an M.S. in Communications.