WASHINGTON (September 28, 2021)—World Resources Institute (WRI) has launched a new high-level advisory council for its Electric School Bus (ESB) Initiative, which aims to help electrify the nation’s 480,000 school buses by 2030. The advisory council is comprised of leaders from across the United States who will advise the project on strategic priorities, serve as ambassadors to the public and play an important role in advancing the project’s equity-centered approach. The council held its inaugural meeting on September 28th during National Drive Electric Week 2021.

Overcoming the cost, infrastructure and policy barriers to mass electric school bus adoption will require a systemic approach that engages an entire ecosystem of actors. Comprised of experts and leaders from across that ecosystem, the council will convene twice annually to advise project leadership on strategic challenges and will support the creation of equity principles to guide the five-year project. Members will also represent the Initiative and its aims within their own networks and spheres of influence, bringing the electrification agenda to the tables where big decisions are made, from school boards to utilities to local governments.

“We are delighted to welcome such a diverse, accomplished and thoughtful group of advisors to the council,” said Sue Gander, Director, Electric School Bus Initiative, WRI. “These individuals reflect the wide range of electric school bus stakeholders and include leading voices in transportation, education, energy, equity, finance, policy and manufacturing. We are deeply grateful to count on their guidance and partnership as we embark together on an ambitious and critical endeavor to accelerate the adoption of electric school buses.” 

School bus electrification would bring about urgently needed benefits to every community in the U.S. The 480,000 school buses in the United States account for approximately 80% of all buses nationwide, yet less than 1% are electrified. The young people riding these buses experience pollution levels inside the cabin up to 12 times higher than ambient levels, affecting physical and cognitive development. Electrifying these buses would mean cleaner, healthier air while kids wait to board the bus and inside the cabin. Further, electric school buses support U.S. carbon emissions reductions targets, are an opportunity for children to experience e-mobility at an early age, and can help enable broader infrastructure and industry changes, including job creation and cost savings. 

“Switching from dirty, polluting diesel school buses to clean electric school buses is key to protecting the health of the more than 26 million children in the U.S. that currently breathe diesel fumes when they ride school buses to school every day, especially those children in low-income communities and communities of color who are disproportionately impacted by transportation pollution,” said Kelsey Wirth, Co-Founder and Chair, Mothers Out Front and member of the advisory council. “Electric school buses are a climate, health and equity solution.”

To advance that solution, the Electric School Bus Initiative will partner with new and existing stakeholders in the electric vehicle and school bus communities to simultaneously aggregate demand, scale manufacturing, change policy incentives, develop new financing models, and forge inclusive and participatory pathways for electrification that can be replicated across the country. 

“Electric school buses provide an opportunity for localities to play their part in helping to realize a more sustainable and just economy,” said Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer, Partnership for Southern Equity and member of the advisory council. “As we move towards a cleaner environment, we also have a chance to jumpstart the economic vitality of systematically disenfranchised communities who have been left behind by our current economy.”

The Electric School Bus Initiative was formed in late 2020, with the support of the Bezos Earth Fund. Through partnerships with a diverse group of stakeholders, the Initiative aims to build unstoppable momentum toward electrifying the entire fleet of U.S. school buses by 2030. The project’s near-term priorities include forming relationships with advocacy and other community-based organizations, launching technical assistance with school districts, engaging manufacturers and utilities, and unlocking funding and other support at the federal, state and local levels. The advisory council will be critical in advancing these priorities with the deep expertise and knowledge they bring to the issue.

The members of the advisory council are:

  • Andre Perry, Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings
  • Carol Tyson, Government Affairs Liaison, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund 
  • Curt Macysyn, Executive Director, National School Transportation Association
  • Curtis Wynn, President & CEO, Roanoke Electric Cooperative & Subsidiaries
  • Gil Quiniones, President & CEO, New York Power Authority
  • Gil Rosas, Energy Education Specialist, Stockton Unified School District 
  • Harold Wimmer, National President & CEO, American Lung Association 
  • Johana Vicente, Chispa National Senior Director at League of Conservation Voters 
  • Karen Wayland, CEO, GridWise Alliance
  • Kelsey Wirth, Co-founder & Chair, Mothers Out Front
  • Mari McClure, President & CEO, Green Mountain Power 
  • Maria Bocanegra, Commissioner, Illinois Commerce Commission
  • Melissa Miles, Executive Director, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance 
  • Michael Nutter, Former Mayor of Philadelphia 
  • Nathaniel Smith, Founder & Chief Equity Officer, Partnership for Southern Equity 
  • Patty Monahan, Commissioner, California Energy Commission 
  • Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers 
  • Ryan Popple, Partner, G2 Venture Partners
  • Solyana Mesfin, High School Student & Student Ex Officio Member of the Kentucky Board of Education
  • Victor Rojas, Senior Vice President, Sustainable Capital Advisors 
  • Willett Kempton, Professor Marine Science & Policy, and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Delaware 

Additional advisory council member quotes:  

“The yellow bus represents not only a means of transportation to school and school-related events for students, it represents access to the education experience for students around the nation, and we look forward to enhancing this experience for all students through the responsible deployment of electric school buses around the United States,” said Curt Macysyn, Executive Director, National School Transportation Association.

“Electric school buses are a critical step in the path toward net-zero carbon emissions and offer a key opportunity to mainstream the air quality and health benefits of vehicle electrification. These benefits are especially relevant in low-income and rural communities, where young people face long school bus commutes and exposure to air pollution,” said Curtis Wynn, President & CEO of the Roanoke Electric Cooperative. “I’m looking forward to working with the other members of this advisory council to ensure an equitable and inclusive approach to school bus electrification.”

“Electrifying school buses has the potential to touch almost every community and make a substantial difference in the decarbonization of the state’s transportation sector,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA President and CEO. “The New York Power Authority is pleased to be part of such a diverse and dedicated group that aims to improve our health and protect the environment. Working together, we will strive to make more equitable, emissions-free vehicles the norm for the next generation.” 

“Zero-emission buses are a symbol of hope and a means of change for communities like Stockton, California,” said Gil Rosas, Energy Education Specialist at Stockton Unified School District. “Stockton has shown how a disadvantaged community can go from design to construction to electric school buses in less than a year. I’ve joined this council to help create a future in which communities across the country can make their electric school bus dream a reality.” 

“Black and Brown communities bear a disproportionate burden from air pollution and the impacts of the changing climate,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO, American Lung Association. “Lung health, climate change, air pollution and infrastructure are all interconnected, and this connection is very clear when you look at America’s school bus system. The American Lung Association advocates for electrifying America’s school bus fleet because it would make the air healthier for the millions of children who ride school buses every day and address the climate crisis at the same time. I am proud to work with the World Resources Institute’s Electric School Bus advisory council to drive the transition toward the shared goal of a zero-emission electric transportation system.”

“Green Mountain Power is so excited to join with partners across the country to rapidly transform our school bus fleet to join the clean energy revolution,” said Mari McClure, President & CEO of Green Mountain Power. “Transportation is a top contributor to carbon emissions and by using clean electricity as the backbone to electrify the nation’s bus fleet, we can also transform the grid to enable more renewables, more resiliency and more comfort for customers. This is a total game changer.”

“The advisory council is a critical cross section of perspectives across various sectors, industries and communities. Now more than ever is the time to build upon the momentum we see in front of us to effectuate real change,” said Maria Bocanegra, Commissioner, Illinois Commerce Commission and member of the advisory council. “The goals of the Initiative build upon local, state, regional and national consensus around school bus electrification, reducing carbon emissions, combating air pollution, and securing the future of our school children.”

“Children and their developing lungs are particularly vulnerable to the harmful impacts of toxic diesel pollution. Electric school buses are a win for kids’ health and for our climate,” said Patty Monahan, Commissioner, California Energy Commission. “CA has just passed a budget that provides funding for 1,000 electric school buses plus infrastructure. I am proud to be part of WRI’s advisory council for the Electric School Bus Initiative and to help bring zero-emission school buses to districts across the country.”

“Students and community members need to be aware of the impacts of non-electric buses, so they too can be a part of advocacy,” said Solyana Mesfin, High School Student and Student Ex Officio Member of the Kentucky Board of Education. “My vision for this council is to aid in the development of resources for school districts so they can make an equitable transition to electric school buses.”

“Taking meaningful action on climate change imperatives is littered with inflection points. While the recent pronouncements by the IPCC and the UNFCCC are sobering, we must continue to aggressively pursue emission reduction efforts that are inclusive, replicable, scalable, impactful and clearly within our reach,” said Victor Rojas, Senior Vice President, Sustainable Capital Advisors. “This effort to electrify all school buses by 2030 is aggressive, bold, ambitious and long overdue. An effort of this nature with far-reaching health and climate implications is precisely what is required at this particular inflection point. With schools everywhere back in session it’s time to get to work and make this happen.”  

“Electric school buses will be a major help to reduce children’s immediate exposure to diesel emissions, and to reduce pollution in the neighborhood, especially in urban areas,” said Willett Kempton, Professor Marine Science & Policy, and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Delaware. “With well-defined routes and large batteries, school buses are also a good candidate for vehicle to grid resources and could provide critical storage for the electric grid.”

For more information on WRI’s Electric School Bus Initiative and the advisory council, visit: www.wri.org/initiatives/electric-school-bus-initiative

About World Resources Institute  World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that spans more than 60 countries, with international offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States, regional offices in Ethiopia (for Africa) and the Netherlands (for Europe), and program offices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Our more than 1,400 experts and staff turn big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being. More information at www.wri.org or on Twitter @WorldResources.