This publication is intended to serve as a resource primarily for school districts and transportation directors exploring school bus electrification and provide them with a better understanding of the state of the electric school bus market and available offerings. It aims to present the growing interest and investment in the sector along with key aspects of the current technology. A scan of the market explores the growing demand for these buses and how manufacturers are positioning themselves to meet that demand. The catalog presents electric school bus models available today with detailed vehicle specifications allowing readers to compare various models and weigh important considerations.

Highlights

  • School districts across the United States have started the transition to electric school buses (ESBs). As of March 2022, 415 districts (or private fleet operators) had committed to the use of 12,275 ESBs across 38 states and a range of operating conditions. States and municipalities are setting electrification goals while manufacturers scale production.
  • Compared to the typical school bus that runs on diesel fuel, ESBs have the potential to lower operation and maintenance costs for fleets and have zero tailpipe emissions. Their large batteries can store and deliver energy using “vehicle-to-everything" technology, to power buildings and other devices, which can support greater resiliency including through the integration of renewable energy. ESBs also have the potential to generate revenue by discharging energy from their batteries back onto the grid, lowering utility costs and emissions. Though this is a nascent market, technological advancements are due to make this widely available in the near future.
  • Currently, 22 ESB models are available from 12 manufacturers for Type A, C and D buses: 14 newly manufactured vehicle models and eight repowered vehicle models. There is the largest selection of Type A models. Type C models are the most commercially ready.
  • Each generation of buses is more advanced than the previous: many manufacturers are on their second or third iteration, some even further along. The newest models possess a battery range to serve more than 99% of routes in the U.S. (School Transportation News 2021a).

Context

Momentum around electric school buses (ESBs) is growing in the United States as school districts across the country transition to this cleaner and healthier technology, bolstered by an upcoming infusion of new funding from the federal government. The ESB transition will require a coordinated effort among numerous entities, including school district leadership and staff; school bus manufacturers and contractors; utilities; policy makers; regulators; local advocacy organizations; and community members.

This publication is intended to serve as a resource primarily for school districts, transportation directors, and other school bus operators exploring school bus electrification to provide a better understanding of the state of the ESB market and available offerings. It aims to present the growing interest and investment in this sector along with key aspects of the current technology. In the “Status of the Electric School Bus Market” section, we explore the growing demand for these buses and how manufacturers are positioning themselves to meet that demand through a scan of the market. Next, in “Bus Basics,” we explain key components of an ESB and discuss the charging and related infrastructure that is needed to support these buses. The core element of the publication presents a catalog of the 22 ESB models available as of early 2022 with detailed vehicle specifications allowing readers to compare various models and weigh important considerations. We conclude by summarizing the status of school bus electrification to date.

Approach and Methodology

The content of this publication has been gathered from a variety of sources, compiling information on models available in the U.S. from publicly available vehicle specifications sheets confirmed through discussions with bus manufacturers when possible.

We explore school district experiences with ESBs representing a variety of use cases in the U.S. – rural, suburban and urban; warm and cold weather, including extreme temperatures; and early adopters further along in their process as well as those in earlier stages of procurement. We compiled recent research and reporting on school district commitments and experiences and supplemented public information with conversations with school districts and other partners. We plan to update this publication annually as new vehicles come to market and existing models are altered.

This resource is one of many from WRI’s Electric School Bus Initiative and is intended to be updated to expand upon topics like funding and financing, alternative service models and utility engagement.