Boston targets 100% electrification of school buses by 2030

Newly elected Boston Mayor Michelle Wu wants school buses — which represent 11% of city emissions — to be electric by 2030.

She announced her vision with the news that Boston Public Schools (BPS) will launch an electric school bus pilot program, beginning with replacing 20 diesel buses with electric buses during the 2022–23 school year. 

“Climate justice is racial and economic justice. And this moment requires an urgent, all hands on deck approach from every level of government to reduce emissions and boost the health, safety and opportunity of our communities,” Wu said in a statement. “Not only are we working to electrify our school buses and municipal fleet for cleaner air throughout our neighborhoods, but these workforce development pipelines connected to electric vehicles will help support career pathways into the green economy.”

An ambitious goal

Wu’s goal is more ambitious than that of New York City, where the city’s council passed a bill in October requiring all school buses to be powered by all-electric, zero-emission drive systems by 2035.

The Boston school district will use a combination of its operating budget and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to replace the first 20 diesel buses with electric buses. Wu said the electric vehicles will be deployed within the next eight to 10 months.

“I am excited to see this policy come to life and am grateful for the partnership with the city to take these critical steps to upgrade our school bus fleet,” said Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Boston Public Schools Superintendent.

The district’s fleet of 739 yellow school buses represents about 11% of the city’s municipal emissions.

Replacing diesel buses

Wu’s office said BPS will continue to replace larger school buses with electric, then will replace smaller buses until the entire fleet is electrified. Since 2016, the district has also been replacing diesel buses with propane as “an interim solution to reduce emissions and costs.”

The April 6 electric bus announcement noted that propane bus technology offers reduced air pollution compared to diesel buses, and transitioning from diesel to propane has provided opportunities for the school district to navigate fleet management for vehicles that have limited refueling points. This has primed BPS’ ability to work with electric school buses that may have range limitations, affecting route assignments.

Electrification, Wu’s office added, will eliminate tailpipe emissions, address air quality and noise concerns around school pickup and dropoff, offer a healthier work environment for bus drivers and monitors, and potentially offer cost savings over the entire bus life cycle.

Wu also said that Boston’s 66 active EV charging stations will increase to 81 over the next year.

Training program

BPS is also working with the city on a train-the-trainer electrification program at a local vocational high school. Starting next month, the Boston Public Works Department fleet maintenance division will offer the inaugural class to certify fleet mechanics — as well as those who work for Public Works and the Boston Police — on properly and safely servicing and repairing electric vehicles.

Seniors enrolled in the automotive program at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, students at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, and adult learners can also take the program.

Meanwhile, this month’s request for information looks to connect the city with local private businesses, supply chain experts, and electric school bus and charging providers that may have an interest in partnering on the project.

Reprinted with permission from School Transportation NewsRead the original post.

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