Electrify the school bus

What's At Stake

What if schoolkids could ride a magic carpet to school — swift, smooth, silent, with no tailpipe and no exhaust fumes? Alas, magic carpets don’t exist anywhere except in cartoons — but electric school buses do, and they come pretty close. School districts around the U.S. are starting to convert their fleets from dirty diesel buses to pollution-free electric ones, sparking a transformation in how 26 million of the country’s schoolkids get to school every day. You can help accelerate this progress.

Federal climate bills recently passed made billions available for electric school buses, putting school districts in a prime position to move ahead in electrifying their fleets. This has been a massive boon for district’s that have taken advantage of it, but there are two key ways the program can be improved moving forward.

First, the government needs to prioritize money for school districts where kids are breathing the dirtiest air. Diesel exhaust produces some of the dirtiest, most toxic pollution in existence that fouls the air in our neighborhoods and directly hurts kids riding in diesel buses.

Children are particularly vulnerable to harm from air pollution. Their lungs aren’t fully developed, and they tend to be outside and active more than adults — meaning they breathe in more of whatever junk is in the air. Research shows that children who grow up in more polluted areas are at greater risk for reduced lung growth, from which they may never recover. The average loss of lung function is about equal to growing up in a home with parents who smoke.

Additionally, the EPA needs to ensure the program does not continue to subsidize combustion buses. Right now, school districts can purchase buses powered by propane or methane gas — locking communities into further pollution. Propane and methane gas engines perform equal to or worse than diesel when it comes to health-harming air pollution. Combustion engine buses — whether they run on diesel or on methane gas — pump out pollution that hurts our lungs and cooks our planet’s climate.

It’s time for school buses to move into the 21st century. The technology is here now to replace dirty diesel school buses with something that truly is almost magic — clean, efficient, better for our kids’ health and able to save money for school districts and local communities.

You can help out by telling the EPA to prioritize clean, electric school buses for districts where kids breathe the dirtiest air in the country.

Led by a chaperone, a group of school children board a yellow school bus.
A group of children board a school bus. (SDI Productions / Getty Images)

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