Interested in getting electric school buses in your school district? Here are some resources to get you started.
See our step by step guide on how to advocate for electric school buses at your district level.
Find detailed information about the health and climate benefits of electric buses here. You can also check out this recently published white paper on electric school buses in Ontario,
In BC? Watch this 10 min presentation on the benefits of electric school buses and what funding is available in BC or this short video from K12climateaction.org. And search this database to find the contact details for your district transportation managers and/or school board trustees.
Finally for something lighthearted, see our fun facts.
You have questions, and we have answers. Find out more below.
Why are diesel school buses harmful to our children's health?
Diesel exhaust is a chemically complex mixture of gases, particles and other compounds. Many of these, including nitrogen dioxide, (NO2) fine particulate matter (PM2.5), PAHs, benzene, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and sulphur dioxide (SO2), are linked to acute and chronic health impacts.
- allergy symptoms
- lung cancer
- heart problems
- and other impacts.
Children are more sensitive to air pollution (including diesel exhaust) because of their higher breathing rates and activity levels, and developing lungs. Numerous studies have shown that prenatal and childhood exposures to traffic emissions can cause the onset or worsening of asthma, delayed lung function development, and childhood leukemia, and there is evidence suggesting links to autism spectrum disorder, delayed cognitive development, and childhood obesity. Childhood exposure can also impact health into adulthood, according to the Ontario Public Health Association.
Exhaust from diesel school buses leads to higher pollutant levels
- inside buses
- in school yards and inside schools (when buses are arriving, leaving or idling)
- in communities where buses travel.
Studies have shown that pollutant levels can be higher inside buses than on the roadside, as exhaust is drawn into the bus itself. For example, a 2001 study in the USA showed that children on the bus were exposed to 4 times more exhaust than the people riding in cars on the road. Another study showed that particulate concentrations were higher when bus windows were closed. Other studies have found similar results.
How can electric buses improve our children's health?
Electric school buses do not emit any exhaust. While newer diesel buses emit lower amounts of harmful pollutants than their predecessors, electric buses are still far better when it comes to air pollution.
A study in Georgia, USA found that retrofitting school buses (to reduce pollutant levels) led to significant improvements in students respiratory health and test scores. Electric buses are, of course, the ultimate retrofit.
Why are electric school buses better for our climate?
Across Canada, in 2018 schools buses traveled 32,757 million passenger kilometers, and emitted 0.6 mt of CO2e.
Technical Info & Funding
How do electric buses work?
Electric buses use a battery instead of an internal combustion engine (gasoline or diesel) for power.
But that's not the only thing that's different. They are also more efficient, converting more power into the wheels. They have only 10% as many moving parts, so require less maintainence. Their batteries can store large amounts of power - and with vehicle-to-grid transfer, that electricity can be sold back into the grid or used in emergencies.
How far can they go?
Today's electric school buses can travel 250 kms on a single charge. Buses are typically charged overnight (8 hrs), but fast charging (3 hrs) is also possible with some systems. They can also operate in cold temperatures - Alaska' s first electric school bus is still running at -40!
How much do they cost?
While an electric school bus costs more than twice as much as a diesel bus (approx. $350,000 compared to $145,00) electric buses can be cheaper in the long run.
Vehicle-to-gird transfer can also add to the financial savings when excess power is sold back to the grid. In fact, according to a recent US policy paper, switching to electric buses will benefit utility companies because they can expand and stabilize the grid, provide surplus energy storage, and increase energy demand.
What funding is available?
Funding is for electric school buses is available, though opportunities differ across provinces and territories. Federal funding is available through Infrastructure Canada’s Zero-Emission Transit Fund (ZETF), and many provinces have announced additional funding.
How many electric school buses are on the road?
Electric school buses are starting to roll out across the country - but that transition isn't even. Quebec has committed to electrifying 65% of it's school fleet by 2030. PEI has 47 buses and an eventual goal of replacing its entire fleet. British Columbia added 18 electric buses in 2021, and more are on the way. Private contractors in Ontario (who supply most school bus transportation services) are also adding new electric buses.
Every school day 110,000 kids across BC ride the school bus. The time those kids spend on the bus - and the distance they travel - adds up. In all, BC school buses travel roughly 33 million kilometers every year.
Switching from diesel to electric will make those journeys healthier - for our kids and the planet.
The good news is some BC students are already riding electric buses. In May 2021, Sooke School District on Vancouver Island became the first to run an electric school bus. As of Dec. 2021, 18 electric school buses were running in 13 school districts - that's 1,300 students benefitting from this cleaner, greener transportation.
Now we need more electric school buses, in all of our 64 school districts.
NEW FUNDING NOW AVAILABLE IN BC WILL MAKE ELECTRIC BUSES MORE AFFORDABLE THAN EVER!
The federal Zero Emission Transit Fund will cover up to 50% of electric bus costs. Combined with provincial funding, this can cover the entire 100% of electric bus costs. Districts and/or bus operators should let the ASTSBC (the association that co-ordinates bus purchases) their buses and infrastructure needs for the next 3 years by Nov. 30, 2022. All bus operators should have to details - and you can help by getting in touch with your district's operations manager or board chair to ask about this. Please get in touch, [email protected] if you need more info.
There are approximately 1,750 school buses in BC. Roughly two thirds of these are owned by school districts, and one third are owned by private contractors. Each bus has a lifespan of 10-14 years, then it must be replaced. Typically, about 100 buses are replaced every year.
Electric buses can save operators money in the long run. A new electric school buses cost more than twice as much as diesel buses - but because electric buses have very few moving parts, maintenance costs are lower. So are fuel costs. And funding is available through grants and risk-free loans to help bus operators make the switch.
Decisions about next year's school bus purchases will be made in May/June. We want all of those new buses to be electric ones.
Charging ahead with Our Electric School Bus Campaign
Here's how you can get started. - see breaking news above!
1) Connect with other parents in your district.
There is strength in numbers. Your Parent Advisory Council (PAC) is a good place to start building support for electric school buses by finding other parents who care about this issue. We can help you with the research and creating a presentation, or connect you with other parents in your area through the ForOurKids network.
2) Talk to your board and transportation manager.
The BC Ministry of Education provides funding for new buses but decisions about what models to purchase are made by school board trustees (for district owned fleets). School board trustees are locally elected representatives who are there to listen to their communities.
Talk to your transportation manager to find out what your district's plans are for buses - then follow up with your board. Share what you you know about the benefits of electric buses and funding options. Let them know how important this issue is to you and other parents. Consider making a presentation, and make sure to follow up. Find contact details for your school board here.
3) Get publicity.
Media - of all kinds - is a great way to reach a broader audience and build support. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor in your local paper (we can help) or put out your message on your social media channels. Think about how to reach people within your school district.
4) Let your MLA know you care.
Many ForOurKids parents have developed strong relationships with their MLAs. Set up meeting and let them know you'd like to see more funding for electric buses.
5) Learn lots, and have fun!
Electric school buses are exciting! We're talking technological innovations that are revolutionizing the way we get around!
The arrival of electric school buses in BC and this campaign is a chance to explore the impacts of emissions from transportation in general. Explore options for active transportation - walking or riding a bike is the lowest impact option of all. And think about other ways to reduce emissions from transportation in your daily life - carpooling, using public transportation, or even switching to an EV is you are considering buying a new car.
Need help with info or resources?
Check out our resources page for links to funding, a video recording of our presentation on electric school buses and more.
See our faq and backgrounder for in depth information on health and climate impacts and financial benefits.
Sign up here to learn more, and connect with others working on this issue, please
email [email protected]
Big yellow buses - they're practically a symbol of school.
Maybe you remember these buses from back when you went to school - the low thrum of the engine as it came down the street, the screech of the braking, or the warm chemical stink of the exhaust on cold mornings as you waited your turn to get on. Or maybe you put your own kids on one of these big yellow diesel school bus in the morning.
Of course these buses have changed some over the years, but not that much. What has changed is that we know much more about the impact of diesel school buses on our children's health and our climate - and that we now have better alternatives.
Electric school buses are better for our kids' health
Diesel exhaust contains toxic compounds and particulate matter including benzene, nitrous oxides, ozone and PM2.5s. Exposure to many of these compounds is known to cause short and long term health impacts such as headaches, worsening of asthma, and an increased risk of cancer. Children are especially vulnerable because of their developing lungs and higher breathing rates.
Diesel school buses increase our children's exposure to diesel exhaust in a number of ways. Studies have shown that pollutant levels inside the school bus can be higher than outside, as exhaust is sucked directly into the bus. Pollutant levels can also be higher in schoolyards and even inside schools when buses are arriving, leaving, or idling. Diesel buses also contribute to air pollution in communities.
Electric buses do not have an internal combustion engine - that means no tailpipe and no toxic fumes. Switching to electric buses improves air quality for kids and communities.
Electric school buses are better for our climate
Unlike diesel buses, electric buses do not run on fossil fuel or emit greenhouse gases when running.
With the effects of climate change becoming more apparent every year, we know we need to reduce our GHG emissions as fast as we can. Switching to electric vehicles - including electric school buses - is an essential step. Each electric school bus saves from 17 to 20 tons of CO2e a year.
We want to see electric school buses in every school district in Canada, at every school, and in every community. And we want you to join us to make this happen.
The good news is change is already afoot. Electric school buses are being trialed in many parts of Canada. Some provinces (like PEI and Quebec) have committed to the electrification of sizeable portions of their school bus fleets. But all across the country we need that switch to happen as quickly as possible. We need decision makers - from school board members to our MLAs and MPPs - to know that this issue is important to us.
Because school bus policies and funding differs provincially, tactics will change across Canada.
Charging ahead - with Our Electric School Bus Campaign
From BC? Find BC specific information here,
Looking for resources? Find infographics, colouring sheets, and more on our resource page.
Detailed health, climate and finance information? See backgrounder here.
For information on actions to take in other parts of Canada, check back here soon or drop us a line at [email protected]