CALSTART has released a new report, Zeroing in on ESBs, an inventory of electric school buses (ESBs). As of September 2021, there were 1,738 ESBs funded, ordered, delivered, and deployed across the US. In total, there are some 480,000 school buses in the US—more than 95% powered by diesel.
While ESBs may be more suitable for electrification than other vehicle sectors at this time, there are challenges to overcome for the market to advance. Currently, ESBs may still cost 300 percent more than an equivalent diesel-powered school bus, and although data suggests maintenance is much more affordable for ESBs, labor trained in electric drivetrains can be challenging to find in many areas of the country (Arora, 2021).
Continued funding support and advancement in policy will allow the ESB market to grow by giving time for ESB technology to mature and demand for ESBs to increase, consequently reducing the capital cost over time and allowing ESBs to reach cost parity1 with their diesel counterpart. Federal funding opportunities such as those outlined in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will play a major role in growing the ESB market, but support at the state and local levels will need to continue to ensure growth for the foreseeable future.—Zeroing in on ESBs
CALSTART has launched an ongoing Electric School Bus Working Group to share up-to-date information and peer learnings and interaction opportunities across school districts nationwide.
Some key points from Zeroing in on ESBs:
California, Maryland, and Florida lead the country in ESB deployment.
School districts are exploring alternative deployment models such as turnkey and Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS) to ease the high upfront cost of ESB adoption.
Another CALSTART publication, Electric School Buses Market Study: A Synthesis of Current Technologies, Costs, Demonstrations, and Funding (November 2021) found that clean fuels power only 8% of the current US school bus fleet, and only 1% is electric.