HomeGreen BusEPA Funds 2,675 More Electric School Buses Across 36 States

EPA Funds 2,675 More Electric School Buses Across 36 States

Nearly 98 percent of the school buses to be funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s year-two Clean School Bus Program competitive grants will be electric.

In all, EPA announced on Monday it is awarding a total of $965 million across 67 grant applications for 2,737 low- and zero-emissions school buses that will operate in 280 school districts nationwide. All but 62 of those school buses are electric with the remaining being powered by propane.

The goal is to hasten large-scale deployments of low- and zero-emissions school buses.

EPA said prioritized school districts in low-income, rural, and/or Tribal communities make up approximately 86 percent of the projects selected for funding.

The competitive grant that ran over the summer allowed school bus contractors to directly apply for funds for the first time, joining other “third party” entities such as bus manufacturers, dealers and electrification-as-a-service providers. Those third parties accounted for 40 percent of the new awards.

First Student, the largest contractor operating across North America, won over $140 million alone to deploy 366 new ESBs. Customer the School District of the City of Pontiac in Michigan secured another 15 ESBs for $5.925 million. First Student plans to have 30,000 ESBs – two-thirds of its national fleet – on the roads and working for school district customers by 2035.

“First Student has both the resources and expertise to assist districts, utilities and municipalities develop the requisite charging and maintenance infrastructure to carry the EPA’s vision forward,” commented Kevin Matthews, head of electrification for First Student.

Highland Electric Fleets was the biggest winner Monday, receiving over $124 million in funds for 411 ESBs deployed across 58 school districts. The company, which owns, operates, deploys and maintains ESBs and charging infrastructure for customers, is active in 30 states and is the first user of V2G in the U.S.

“We want to thank the EPA for their leadership in creating this historic opportunity to transform our transportation infrastructure with zero emission fleets,” Duncan McIntyre, CEO of Highland Electric Fleets, said in an email to School Transportation News. “We’re humbled to be supporting communities across the country and are grateful to a robust coalition of tremendous partners to bring cleaner, healthier air to more students.”

Highland first began deploying electric school buses via a partnership with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, a state that is one of several with a mandate for zero emissions. The school district also received an award Monday for 50 new electric school buses.

Meanwhile, applications for EPA’s second Clean School Bus rebate are due by Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. ET. EPA told project stakeholders on Monday that so far a minimal number of applications have been submitted. That project funds up to $345,000 plus charging infrastructure for the largest electric school buses, while offering up to $35,000 for propane and $45,000 for CNG. Funds also pay for ADA-compliant wheelchair lifts and shipping costs to Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. Territories.

According to school bus manufacturer reports to the STN Buyer’s Guide, 5,277 electric school buses were manufactured since between the November 2015 and October 2023. Production of electric school buses also surpassed propane school buses for the first time this past year.

Related: Update: EPA Announces Latest Clean School Bus Program Grants
Related: Upcoming EPA Webinars to Detail Clean School Bus Rebate Process
Related: $500M EPA Clean School Bus Rebate Targets School Districts That Haven’t Applied
Related: (STN Podcast E158) Is That For Me? A Guide to Current Funding Options for Clean School Buses

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