Charging Ahead

April 19, 2019
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. In the United States, more than 
25 million students take one every day, according to the American School Bus Council. That’s more than 480,000 buses on the road. Most of them run on diesel fuel.

Like gasoline, diesel is a product made from a fossil fuel. It is bad for the environment. Diesel emissions pollute the air. They may also cause or worsen health problems, such as asthma.

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

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

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

New Wheels

School districts in California, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have already begun test runs of electric school buses.

In New York City, council member Rafael Espinal has 
secured $1.5 million for a “handful” of 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, but also be a contributor 
to the fight against climate change,” Espinal says.

Switching will not be cheap. A typical diesel bus can be purchased for about $400,000, while an electric bus costs around $750,000. Many school districts can’t afford the extra expense.

But electric school buses may end up costing less over time. 
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it costs less to travel in an electric vehicle than in one that runs on diesel.

To Casale, the choice is clear. Diesel is unacceptable, he says, “when we know how bad it is for kids and we know there are better options out there.”