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Charging Ahead

PLUG IT IN An electric bus is powered by a battery instead of gas. It is charged much like a cell phone might be. ROBERT DAEMMRICH PHOTOGRAPHY INC./CORBIS/GETTY IMAGES

Do you ride a school bus? If not, you might know someone who does. There are more than 480,000 school buses on the road every day in the United States. Most of them run on diesel fuel.

Diesel is made from a fossil fuel fossil fuel MILEHIGHTRAVERLER/GETTY IMAGES a fuel formed in the earth from plant or animal remains (noun) Most cars run on gasoline, which is made from fossil fuels. . It is bad for the environment. Diesel emissions emissions BOULTON MARK/GETTY IMAGES substances sent into the air (as by a smokestack or car engine) (noun) We could always tell Mom's car by the white cloud of emissions from the tailpipe. pollute the air. They may also cause or worsen health problems, such as asthma.

“When kids are on the bus or just at school near buses, they are exposed to diesel fumes,” Matthew Casale told TIME for Kids. He is the director of the 21st Century Transportation campaign for the United States Public Interest Research Group. The group hopes to inspire a switch to electric school buses.

Electric buses run on batteries. They are plugged into charging stations. 
They can run for 150 miles on a single charge. The best news? They are emissions-free.

“Our goal is to get 100% of school buses electric by 2030,” Casale says.

New Wheels

School districts in California, Massachusetts, and Minnesota are already testing electric school buses.

Rafael Espinal is an elected official in New York City. He got more than 
$1 million for electric buses for the 2019–2020 school year.

“I thought it made sense to look at how we can electrify our school bus system and improve air quality for our students,” Espinal says.

Switching will not be cheap. A typical diesel bus sells for about $400,000. An electric bus costs around $750,000. Many school districts can’t afford that price.

But it costs less to travel in an electric vehicle than in one that runs on diesel. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Casale says the choice is clear. He thinks diesel is unacceptable “when we know how bad it is for kids and there are better options out there.”