Amid air quality concerns, districts embrace electric buses

BOSTON (AP) — For several years, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools had toyed with replacing some of its 1,000 diesel buses with cleaner electric vehicles. But school leaders said the change would be too costly.

Then 12-year-old student Holly Thorpe showed up at a school board meeting to tout the benefits of going electric and returned to encourage the district to apply for a state grant.

Two years on, the school board on Wednesday approved a district plan to use state money to replace up to 50 diesel buses with electric models over the next several years.

Thorpe is overjoyed the district is making the switch. “It wasn’t imaginary any more,” she said. “It just wasn’t like an idea. It was coming to life.”

The transition is part of a small but growing movement led by parents, students and lawmakers to purchase electric school buses to improve the health of students and cut planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions.

Roughly 25 million children ride school buses every year. And though only about 1% of 480,000 U.S. school buses are electric, there are signs the push to abandon diesel buses is gaining momentum:

— Late last year, the World Resources Institute announced a $37.5 million Bezos Earth Fund grant to help electrify all school buses in the country by 2030. The nonprofit will work over the next five years on the project with school districts, communities, environmental justice groups, utilities, bus manufacturers and policymakers.

— This year, a suburban Maryland district became the country’s largest to commit to going completely electric. It plans to replace 1,442 diesel buses by 2035. The first 326 electric ones will be leased from Massachusetts-based Highland Electric Transportation.

— California, the country’s electric school bus leader, has funded the purchase of 1,167 and budgeted for another 1,000 over the next three fiscal years.


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