New Electric School Buses to Reduce Pollution and Improve Safety in Pennsylvania

Front view of a yellow school bus parked in front of a hydro sub-station. (Getty Images)

By Sean Kitchen

May 31, 2023

Ten school districts across Pennsylvania are in line to receive 88 electric school buses by the start of the 2024 school year, thanks to funding from President Biden’s infrastructure law.  Aside from giving students a quieter and healthier ride to school, these buses can provide communities relief following natural disasters.

Children in the Steelton-Highspire school district in South Central Pennsylvania will soon be able to get to school and back on safer, clean-energy buses thanks to funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The district is set to receive six electric buses that will be ready by the start of the 2024 school year and allowed attendees of a recent press conference to ride an electric school bus. 

Mark Carnes, the business manager at the Steelton-Highspire school district, described the benefits these buses will bring for students and the school district.

Removing the diesel engine from school buses provides benefits that help drivers and students alike. The new line of buses reduces the amount of noxious gasses—therefore reducing pollution and making the buses healthier for kids—and allows for a quieter bus ride. According to Carnes, this will keep students calm and make it easier for drivers to watch the students. 

The electric buses also provide an added layer of security if a natural disaster happens and causes a power outage within a given community. The buses have the capability to power a building once they are connected to their chargers.  

“[If] the hurricane blows through here like that and it damages the solar array, well, what we can do then is hit a button on the chargers and those buses discharge their electricity into the building,” Carnes said.“It’s enough voltage to power the entire high school.”   

The district is one of 10 across the commonwealth selected to receive electric school buses due to $34.6 million in funds from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program, a rebate and competitive grant program that is part of the infrastructure law.

The districts will receive a total of 88 buses with Scranton (25) and Pittsburgh (20) receiving the most buses.

The buses will be owned and operated by the companies that school districts contract transportation services with, and they must use the buses in the districts for the first five years. For instance, Rohrer Enterprises Inc. will own the 25 buses allotted to the Scranton School District, but they have to be used in the district during that period.

In order for school districts to be eligible for the rebate program, they have to work with the companies they contract with to scrap diesel powered buses that are older than 2010 or donate, scrap, or sell buses that are newer than 2011.

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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