Under Grant Funding Opportunity GFO-17-607 (School Bus Replacement for California School Districts and County Offices of Education), California school districts can apply for a share of $94.1 million in funding to purchase new electric or CNG school buses, as well as charging and fueling infrastructure.
Senate Bill 110 allocates up to $75 million for electric buses, to be split evenly among the northern, southern, central and Los Angeles County regions of California. It will be distributed by the California Energy Commission (CEC), in consultation with the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) provides an additional $19.1 million—$13 million for electric charging equipment, $3.7 million for CNG buses, and $2.4 million for CNG fueling infrastructure.
As part of Phase One of the project, applications are being accepted now through 5 p.m. PST on Sept. 20. The funds are part of the 2018-2019 California State Budget, and would not be available “until July 1, 2018, or when the Governor signs the Budget Act, whichever is later,” said the CEC. At this writing, the budget had not yet been signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. It is estimated that the delivery of the buses will begin next October.
Priority will be given to public school districts and county offices of education (COE) that run the oldest school buses, serve disadvantaged communities, or have a majority of students who are eligible for free or reduced lunches. The age of a bus will be based on the age of the chassis, or model year, not the age of the engine. Applications will be evaluated and ranked by the CEC.
ZEVs are the focus of the grant, but CNG buses will be allowed, if the grantee can demonstrate that an electric bus “would not be sufficient to meet the needs of the applicant’s regular school bus routes.” CEC documentation specifies that at least two of the following conditions must be met:
- The average route distance traveled daily exceeds 90 miles.
- More than 20 percent of service days have temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit during the hours the bus is operated.
- 40 percent of routes are on roads with speed limits of 45 mph or higher.
- 50 percent of routes include a 15 percent grade.
The grant will cover 100 percent of the purchase price of an electric school bus and up to $165,000 of a CNG school bus. Each district or COE may receive up to 10 new buses, unless the CEC decides otherwise. Each awardee may also receive up to $60,000 for electric charging station infrastructure, or $500,000 for CNG fueling infrastructure.
Diesel buses to be replaced cannot have qualified for another funding opportunity, must have been in use in the district for at least one year, and must be scrapped within 12 months of receiving the new buses. The California Highway Patrol must approve the new buses, which must be a current year model. After receipt of the new buses, districts and CEOs must use them for a minimum of three years.
Once district and COE applications are received, Phase Two of the project will “solicit manufacturers to design, construct, and deliver the replacement electric buses.”
Phase Three will involve providing “workforce training and development opportunities and resources to support electric school bus maintenance, charging, and operations.” This service will not be available for CNG bus purchases.
In an informative webinar held on Tuesday, the CEC confirmed that it would identify and select the eligible electric buses to replace old diesel ones, but that it would not do so for new CNG buses. Representatives also said that any additional features like wheelchair lifts or air conditioning could be requested at the time of application.
A representative from the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District also took a few minutes to explain the Rural School Bus Pilot Project. She said that the current program year has $10 million available from state cap-and-trade funds.
Written questions can be sent to Commission Agreement Officer Crystal Presley-Willis by fax at 916-654-4423, or by email at email@example.com until June 15 at 5 p.m. PST. A FAQ answering those questions will be available shortly thereafter.
More information and forms can be found on the project website.