This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean School Bus Program announced nearly $1 billion in awards to help almost 400 school districts purchase more than 2,400 buses. Approximately 95% of these buses will be electric and go to school districts in all 50 states, Washington DC, several tribal nations and U.S. territories with additional awards expected in the coming weeks. Included in this group are 42 school districts that the World Resources Institute’s Electric School Bus Initiative (ESBI) has prioritized for outreach and technical assistance as underserved communities, based on air quality, income and race, or tribal status. The ESBI is working with several of these communities already — including providing assistance for their funding applications — and will be contacting them to offer support during the procurement and deployment stages.

With these awards, electric school buses are slated to arrive in every state within the next few years, adding to the 12,720 electric school buses already committed[1] or on the road in 38 states and two tribal nations. These awards mean that electric buses will arrive in places where none were previously on their way: Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa and Puerto Rico. Some states will see large jumps from current numbers: Texas will go from only three committed electric school buses to almost 140, South Carolina from eight to more than 150, and Illinois will more than double from 89 to over 200.

Along with advocates like the Alliance for Electric School Buses, the ESBI supported the creation and design of the Clean School Bus Program and provided technical assistance to school districts and others throughout the application process. This included assisting with applications in several underserved districts, supporting our mission of creating unstoppable momentum toward equitably electrifying the entire U.S. school bus fleet by 2030.

Electric school buses offer a healthier ride to school as diesel school bus exhaust presents health risks to children, bus drivers, maintenance workers, communities located along routes and near depots and others. Diesel exhaust is also responsible for carbon emissions. Its impacts are not felt equally: Black studentschildren with disabilities and low-income students rely on school buses more than others.

The 2021, Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) dedicated $5 billion over five years to replace existing buses with cleaner ones. This program is designated as part of President Biden's Justice40 Initiative, which seeks to ensure at least 40 percent of benefits from climate programs go to underserved communities disproportionately impacted by pollution.

In May 2022, the EPA launched the Clean School Bus Program by opening a $500 million rebate program. They received application requests totaling nearly $4 billion – eight times the $500 million initially announced for this round. The tremendous volume of applications for electric school buses underscores the strong demand to transition to electric school buses. It also demonstrates that additional public funding is warranted, including funding to support necessary infrastructure investments for charging equipment and electricity system upgrades.

New awardees have until April 2023 to submit their purchase orders to EPA and until October 2024 to deploy their new school buses and confirm the retirement of the old buses by scrapping — or in the case of newer buses, potentially selling or donating them. The next round of funding will be through a competitive grant program to support school bus replacement projects and is expected to open its application process in late 2022 or early 2023.

The ESBI will continue to provide resources to and assistance for districts navigating all stages of the fleet electrification process, with a focus on districts in underserved communities, including the winners of the 2022 Clean School Bus Program Rebates. For a list of our resources, see here.

[1] An electric school bus considered “committed” when a school district or fleet operator has been awarded funding to purchase it or has made a formal agreement for a purchase with a manufacturer. Committed buses also include those that have been delivered to the school district or fleet operator and those in operation.