April 23, 2024 2:29 am
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National News

Electric bus movement looks to accelerate

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Mike Moen, Producer

Most school and transit buses on the nation’s roadways these days are still powered by diesel engines but in Wisconsin and elsewhere, there is hope about the push to switch to electric fleets.

The city of Racine has made headlines in recent years for leveraging federal funds to add more electric buses operated by its transit agency. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, school systems such as the Palmyra-Eagle district have used federal grants to buy a handful of buses fitted with such technology.

Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Midwest-based advocacy group, said it is encouraging to see the activity, knowing benefits will come with it.

“The children or the riders on buses, including the drivers, will experience zero tailpipe emissions,” Mudd pointed out. “Which they now do, because fumes, unfortunately, often get circulated into buses.”

The new models also prevent harmful emissions from floating through neighborhoods, especially when buses are idled. Mudd noted it has a positive effect on human health, as well as mitigating climate change, with transportation making up nearly 30% of U.S. carbon emissions. But even with federal support, she acknowledged there are still upfront cost barriers in securing electric buses.

Mudd added implementing charging stations for larger electric bus fleets can be more intensive than infrastructure for passenger models.

“It definitely requires more equipment,” Mudd said. “(It) may require transformer upgrades and that is more costly.”

Organizations like hers are appealing to utilities to help make the infrastructure more accessible to schools and transit agencies. Once they get past the initial expenses, supporters said the efforts help schools and municipalities reduce their fuel costs.

In late 2022, Wisconsin received more than $25 million in federal support to replace 65 diesel school buses around the state with electric ones.

References:  Bus data World Resources Institute 09/21/2023

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