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Los Angeles County Sets Roadmap for New Electric School Bus Sales in Four Years

By the start of the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Los Angeles County in California is setting a nation-leading school bus electrification goal.

The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator’s Transportation Electrification Partnership (TEP) released a 2028 Roadmap on Monday that sets bold new targets to achieve a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions within the next four years. This includes 45 percent of all school buses operating on roads and highways county-wide being powered by electricity. Meanwhile, 100 percent of all school bus sales would also need to be electric by the Olympics’ start.

The TEP is a multi-year, public-private partnership of local, regional and state stakeholders that are committed to accelerating transportation electrification and zero-emissions goods movement throughout the Los Angeles region in advance of the 2028 Olympics and Paralympics.

It was established in 2018 and released Roadmap 1.0 that same year. The goal of is to reduce GHGs and air pollution in Los Angeles County.

In 2019, the partnership released Roadmap 2.0 which identified a clear pathway. Roadmap 3.0 tracks the progress and addresses the new target of school buses. Additionally, Roadmap 3.0 increases TEP’s target for public and workplace vehicle chargers to 129,000 chargers installed county-wide by 2028. Previously, TEP sought 84,000 vehicle chargers county-wide.

The increased electrification goal of school buses comes following the signing of AB 579 into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September. The mandate requires 100 percent of newly purchased or contracted school buses to be zero-emissions in the state by 2035, though it does provide rural school districts with a 10-year extension.

“Given that one in 11 children in Los Angeles suffer from asthma, and that riding the school bus contributes 33 percent of a child’s daily exposure to certain air pollutants, this target aims to improve public health–particularly for those most at risk,” a press release by the Partnership states.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), a TEP partner, offers $4.5 million for charging stations. LADWP also offers a $125,000 reimbursement per charging station for school buses, depending on the power output.

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Meanwhile, not all school districts are convinced electricity is a suitable option right now. Neal Abramson, the director of transportation for Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District near Los Angeles, told School Transportation News on Tuesday that he’s not against electrification. But he noted that the range and infrastructure need to improve before it’s a tangible goal.

“Until the mileage/range of fully electric buses is increased to at least 220 miles, we can’t purchase or use any large school buses,” he said, adding that Santa Monica-Malibu purchased its first electric Type A school bus in July, but has yet to receive it.

For instance, he noted the frequent mudslides in the Santa Monica Mountains that close roads and force school buses to drive miles out of their way.

Plus, he shared that the cost of the district’s new Type A electric school bus was priced at about $400,000. While a $100,000 point-of-sale voucher through the state’s Heavy Vehicle Incentive Program offset the purchase price, Abramson said the district’s share was still expensive for a small school bus, especially since it purchased the vehicle outright. He added that many of grants available require scrapping the older diesel school buses that will be replaced. But Santa Monica-Malibu does not own the buses, making them ineligible for grants.

Abramson noted that he could purchase three gasoline Type A buses for the price of one electric. Plus, he said, the local utility can’t provide the infrastructure needed to charge the buses at this time.

“I would say that L.A. County’s goals are impossible to reach at this time,” he concluded.

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