Looking back on school bus electrification efforts in 2022

Written by: Astha Lakhankar, New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition (NJCCC)

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A group of six individuals are posed along the side of a yellow school bus.

In 2022, school bus electrification continued to move forward in New Jersey, with the New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition (NJCCC) being one of the driving forces for its advancement.

NJCCC is a non-profit working locally to advance equitable and affordable domestic transportation fuels, energy-efficient mobility systems, and other fuel-saving technologies and practices. The Coalition works with its members, stakeholders, and community partners to promote schools’ usage of electric vehicles.

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To highlight one initiative, on July 19, the organization co-hosted an Electric School Bus Experience event with bus dealer H.A. DeHart & Son, the local chapter of the Sierra Club, Essex County Parks and the Weequahic Park Association. The event, held in Weequahic Park in Newark, NJ, was co-sponsored by Environment NJ, the NJ Environmental Justice Alliance (NJEJA), and the local electric utility, PSEG.

The event, part of the broader Mid-Atlantic Electric School Bus Experience Project (MEEP), sought to educate school transportation professionals and other stakeholders on electric vehicle (EV) bus technology through a live EV bus demonstration as well as provide guidance on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state funding opportunities for school bus electrification. During the event, attendees rode an electric school bus through Weequahic Park and asked questions about driver satisfaction, maintenance, the total cost of ownership, and vehicle charging needs.

Additionally, honored community representatives shared their perspectives and support for electric school buses, including Newark Councilman Patrick Council, Kim Gaddy (Clean Water Action), Nicole Miller (Newark Environmental Commission), Melissa Miles (NJEJA) and Wynnie Fred Victor Hinds (Weequahic Park Association).

During the event, speakers shared information on various EV school bus funding opportunities, including the EPA’s nationwide Clean School Bus funding program, which offered $913 million to 389 school districts to support the purchase of 2,463 sustainably-fueled school buses, with 95% of them being electric. 

The program, outlined in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will provide $5 billion over the next five years to support the deployment of EV school buses in school districts around the country, including underserved districts in New Jersey. This year’s round of funding resulted in two state school districts, Bridgeton School District and Atlantic County Special Services, being awarded a total of $2.5 million for investing in 7 vehicles. 

In New Jersey, school bus electrification initiatives continue to thrive, with contract electric school buses being deployed in the Trenton area and soon hitting the road around Orange.

Additionally, Governor Phil Murphy has signed legislation to implement a three-year  “Electric School Bus Program,” which will provide up to $45 million in funding for the purchase of electric school buses across the state.

The NJCCC is currently in the planning stages for multiple electric school bus and alternative fuel programs in 2023. Keep an eye on the website (njcleancities.org) for new programs as they are announced.

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