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Electric Buses in Education: A Case Study of Bethlehem Area School District

bethlehem buses

Electric Buses in Education: EV Adoption by Schools Across Pennsylvania

Quiet as a whisper and without a tailpipe chugging out emissions, an electric bus full of students glides by. In response to a global movement toward sustainable transportation, the emergence of electric vehicles (EVs) has grown significantly. Supporting the ingenuity of electric vehicles, electrical engineers and electrical contractors have played an equally significant role by providing state-of-the-art electric vehicle charging stations across the country.

Education Sector Continues See EVs as the Future

The Bethlehem Area School District‘s recent unveiling of its first two electric school buses provides an excellent example of how educational institutions can lead by example in the push for greener transportation. The BASD Transportation Department transports over 10,000 students to and from school every school day using more than 100 buses that travel over 6,400 miles daily.  We deliver these students to not only the 22 schools in the Bethlehem Area School District, but also to over 50 additional private and charter schools located within 10 miles of our own district boundaries. 

The adoption of electric buses within school districts not only underscores a commitment to environmental sustainability but also offers benefits ranging from financial savings to health improvements for students.

Jack Silva
Jack P. Silva, Ed. D speaks on the significance of electric transportation infrastructure.


Environmental Impact of Expanding EV Infrastructure

One of the most compelling reasons for schools to switch to electric buses is the significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Traditional diesel buses emit a considerable amount of carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, as well as other pollutants that contribute to smog and poor air quality. Electric buses, on the other hand, operate on clean energy, drastically reducing the amount of harmful emissions released into the atmosphere.

For the Bethlehem Area School District, this move towards electric buses means contributing positively to the fight against climate change while protecting the health of its students and the wider community. As these buses produce zero tailpipe emissions, they help improve local air quality, creating a healthier environment for students who are particularly vulnerable to respiratory issues exacerbated by pollution.

Economic Benefits of Electric Transportation 

While the initial costs are a consideration, the potential for significant economic savings over time is a compelling argument for the shift towards electric school buses. Electric school buses, despite having the highest initial costs for the vehicle and charging station, offer the lowest fuel and maintenance expenses. This results in the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) over the vehicle’s lifetime at $410,000, making the 2023 model electric school bus the most economical option compared to diesel, CNG, and propane buses. These savings are achieved through reduced fuel costs and lower maintenance requirements compared to diesel buses.

How Much Does an Electric School Bus Cost?

Although electric vehicles and electric school buses require a higher initial investment compared to vehicles with internal combustion engines, the Bethlehem Area School District is expected to see substantial savings in fuel and maintenance costs. Electric buses are cheaper to operate per mile than their diesel counterparts due to lower fuel costs and simpler mechanics, which result in fewer parts that could fail.

Moreover, the ongoing maintenance for electric buses involves less frequent and less costly servicing. Traditional buses require regular oil changes, transmission repairs, and exhaust system maintenance, none of which are needed in electric buses. This translates to lower operational costs and fewer bus downtimes, which can significantly reduce the overall expenses for a school district.

How Many Electric School Buses Are in the U.S.?

Electric school buses are already in operation in various districts across the United States, and their adoption is steadily increasing. These buses are part of a growing effort to reduce environmental impact and promote sustainable practices within school systems. The electric buses operate on clean energy, significantly reducing the emissions compared to traditional diesel buses, and are identical in design and functionality to their counterparts, aside from the engine technology.

The number of electric school buses in the U.S. is rapidly growing, with several states implementing pilot programs and others fully integrating them into their fleets. Initiatives and grants at both the state and federal levels are facilitating this transition, making it feasible for more districts to adopt this eco-friendly transportation option. The exact number can fluctuate, but the trend indicates a significant increase as more educational organizations recognize the long-term benefits and cost-effectiveness of electric buses.

Community Leadership and Funding Opportunities

Adopting electric buses positions a school district as a leader in community health and sustainability efforts. It sends a strong message about the district’s commitment to future-ready education and community responsibility. 

This proactive approach can enhance the district’s image, boosting community support and potentially increasing enrollment as parents seek out districts that align with their values on sustainability.

Furthermore, there are several funding opportunities available for schools that wish to transition to electric buses. Grants from state and federal agencies, often designed to reduce environmental impact, can help mitigate the costs associated with purchasing electric buses and installing necessary infrastructure like charging stations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earmarked at least $500 million in funding from the Clean School Bus rebate competition, aimed at continuing the transformation of school bus fleets across America. This funding, building on an earlier investment of nearly $1 billion, seeks to improve air quality around schools, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and bolster America’s development of clean vehicle technologies.

Investing in Student Health and Environmental Sustainability

The move towards electric buses in school districts across Pennsylvania and in places like Bethlehem is not just about adopting new technology — it’s about making a long-term investment in the health of students and the planet. The benefits of electric buses extend far beyond the confines of cost and environment; they also offer educational benefits that can inspire students and comfort parents. 

As more school districts observe the successes of pioneers like Bethlehem, the trend towards greener school transportation is likely to gain further momentum. This shift not only aligns with global sustainability goals but also prepares students for a future where clean energy and innovation are at the forefront of societal development. For educational organizations looking to make a substantial positive impact on both their community and the environment, electric buses represent a promising path forward.

To discover how ElecVulum can support your educational institution on its journey toward sustainability, schedule a consultation with us to explore your options.


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