State Resources Available to Assist Public Schools with Electric Buses

By NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris | April 8, 2024

New York State’s investment in our clean energy future includes embracing cleaner transportation options that improve air quality and provide healthier commutes. Regardless of region, communities across the state are seizing the opportunity to chart a better tomorrow, one that reduces reliance on fossil fuels, offers long-term health benefits for all ages, and makes our communities more resilient in the face of increasing extreme weather events.

While the prospect of a full fleet changeover can seem intimidating, it is attainable with effective planning and leveraging resources made available through State and federal programs. The first $100 million in clean school bus Bond Act funding, administered through the New York School Bus Incentive Program (NYSBIP), is available to lower or cover up to 100% of the cost difference between an electric bus and a gas or diesel bus. This funding bolsters the resources New York State already has available for public schools to develop fleet electrification plans and cover the cost of charging infrastructure. Additionally, districts that are considered high-need or are in disadvantaged communities are eligible for higher incentives for buses and charging stations.

We understand that for many school districts and bus operators, electric buses are new technology and, as with any long-term investment, this shift is something that will gradually take place over time. We encourage districts to purchase a few buses to get used to the technology. And electric buses are an attractive option for schools as they provide a safe and comfortable ride for students with most models on the market today traveling 100 to 200 miles on a single charge, allowing them to easily complete the average school bus route of 80 miles per day.

NYSERDA also offers school districts direct support for fleet electrification planning which allows each school district the opportunity to develop unique plans to determine which electric buses and charging stations best suit their needs and develop an electrification transition timeline that can serve as a guide for their district. Our programs at NYSERDA provide 75% to 100% of the costs of developing fleet electrification plans for school districts across the state. Fleet electrification planning also unleashes access to higher incentives for buses and charging stations through the Bond Act.

Additionally, we offer support for community members and key decision makers to deepen their understanding of the transition processes and technology currently on the market, including by meeting one-on-one with any school districts that need assistance. Also, our New York State Electric School Bus Roadmap and the New York State Electric School Bus Guidebook pinpoint critical factors faced when considering electric bus options and provide the latest information and strategies, as well as funding options, that can be considered by schools to enhance their clean fleets through proper planning, purchasing, and financing.

School districts that have already begun planning for and deploying electric buses note the many benefits including having lower fuel and maintenance costs, being easier to drive and maintain, and that they are also quieter, so it’s easier for the driver to hear while driving. Phasing in electric school buses will also reduce pollutants linked to asthma and respiratory illnesses helping to ensure the health and safety of the 1.5 million students who ride the bus every day, the drivers and technicians who keep the buses running smoothly, and communities across the State.

With State support, federal funding and programs offered through local electric utilities, electric school buses are an affordable and healthy option for additional school districts across the State.

New York has more than 45,000 school buses on our roadways, and therefore we encourage school districts to start their planning now by exploring NYSERDA’s suite of planning and assistance resources designed to guide school districts on their path to converting their polluting diesel-powered buses to clean electric. This is a promising opportunity and our team at NYSERDA is standing by to help.

Doreen M. Harris serves as the President and CEO of NYSERDA.