Maryland lawmakers recently passed House Bill 1125, requiring all state school buses purchased after October 2019 to be zero-emission — but the legislation also includes a grant program that will offset the cost, reports Bethesda Magazine.
The new law will cost Montgomery County Public Schools about $84 million, and county officials have expressed concern about the lack of availability of electric school buses as well as their high price tag, which is estimated at about $120,000 per bus plus an additionally $65,000 each to ensure they meet a zero emissions standard.
A New York district previously piloted a zero-emissions bus program that included five battery-powered vehicles costing $365,000 a piece, and opponents claim these vehicles are still too pricey and not yet efficient enough to be of much benefit.
While the cost for zero-emissions buses seems excessive for school districts that are constantly strapped for cash, there are ways to work around the price. For example, the White Plains, New York, school district has offset the cost of its new electric buses by securing $120,000 in state grants and teaming up with local electric utility Consolidated Edison. Thought to be the first exchange of its kind in the country, the power company paid $100,000 per bus in return for the rights to use the buses in the summer to help power the grid. The bus batteries store electricity during low-use hours and then release it back to the grid during high-use hours.
California, with its stringent air pollution policies, is on the forefront of turning all buses into an electric, zero-emissions fleet. First Priority GreenFleet has 150 buses already in service. The state’s air quality agency has funds available for school districts interesting in investing in this technology.
More competition in this field means the prices may soon drop. While the Canadian company Lion Electric Co. has been the leader in manufacturing these buses, Blue Bird and Daimler have both started marketing their own versions.
Though electric buses currently come with a huge price tag, the vehicles are already starting to show that they will pay off in the long run, with no fuel costs and lower maintenance fees demonstrating long-term savings.