The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean School Bus Program has launched, offering $5 billion over the next five years to support school bus electrification across the country. In its initial funding phase, $500 million in rebates is available.
School buses are one of the most well-positioned vehicle types for transitioning from diesel fuel to zero-emission electric operation: They have predictable duty cycles with morning and afternoon routes that allow for recharging overnight and in the middle of the day. The stable and low cost of electricity also has the opportunity to provide real savings for the estimated 181 million route miles that North Carolina school buses travel every year.
There are over 14,000 school buses in daily operation across the state — most powered by diesel fuel — providing transportation for nearly 800,000 North Carolina K-12 students. Each diesel bus replaced with an electric model would provide cleaner, healthier air for our most precious cargo while reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 0.25 tons and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 23 tons annually.
Below, we provide — using screenshots from a recent EPA webinar where appropriate — guidance for North Carolina schools interested in learning about or pursuing the Clean School Bus Program. If you are a school district in North Carolina, feel free to contact us with any questions. For additional supporting resources, reference the EPA, World Resources Institute and Alliance for Electric School Buses.
- This is a rebate program. Don’t purchase buses or charging equipment until you’ve received notice from the EPA that your application has been selected. There will then be an opportunity for the EPA to review your purchase order prior to submitting it to any manufacturers
- Applications are open from May 20 to August 19, 2022, and will be reviewed after that 90-day window. This is not a first-come, first-served process, but late applications will not be accepted, so don’t wait too long
- Eligible applicants are listed as:
- State and local government entities that are responsible for providing bus service to one or more public schools or that purchase school buses (like the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction)
- Tribes and tribal organizations
- Nonprofit school transportation associations
- Additional “eligible” contractors
- The EPA is prioritizing certain school districts. Prioritization criteria include:
- High-need school districts and low-income areas
- Rural school districts
- Tribal school districts
Guidelines for replacement include:
- Buses must be 2010 model year or older if diesel powered
- If a fleet doesn’t have eligible diesel buses and still wishes to apply for electric school buses, the applicant can:
- Scrap 2010 or older non-diesel-powered buses, or
- Scrap, sell or donate 2011 or newer internal combustion engine buses
- Serve the district listed in the application for at least five years
- Not include an unvented diesel passenger heater
- Not be ordered prior to receiving official notification of selection from EPA
- Not be funded with any additional federal funds (but certain school districts in North Carolina may qualify for other relevant funding sources)
Bus Funding Amounts
The following image outlines maximum funding amounts by district prioritization status, bus type and bus size. Electric buses fall under the “ZE” (zero-emission) bus type.
Infrastructure Funding Amounts
The following images detail 1) the maximum funding available for electric school bus charging infrastructure based on district prioritization status, and 2) what infrastructure expenses qualify.
The following image provides a high-level overview of the application process.