Every school day, 110, 000 kids all over BC ride the school bus. The time those kids spend on the bus - and the distance they travel - adds up. BC school buses travel roughly 33 million kilometres every year.
Switching to electric school buses can make those journeys healthier, for our kids and our planet.
Right now, the majority of school buses in BC are run on diesel. Diesel buses emit toxic exhuast which is made up of a slew of chemical compounds. Exposure to diesel exhuast has short
and long term impacts from worsening of astma to increased risk of cancer - see this backgrounder for more information. Diesel buses also contribute to climate change because they emit greenhouse gases.
Electric school buses don't have a tailpipe - that means no harmful exhuast and no greenhouse gas emissions. Each electric school bus in BC save 17 tonnes of GHG emissions per year.
The good news is, some BC students are alreading riding electric buses.
In May 2020, Sooke School District on Vancouver Island was the first add an electric school bus to their fleet. The district now has three, and they have committed to converting their entire fleet.
Some other school districts are trialling buses too. As of Dec. 2021, 18 electric school buses were running in 13 school districts. Thirty-four more buses will be arriving in the next few months.
Now we need more electric school buses, in all of our 64 school districts.
How are bus purchase decisions made?
There are approximately 1,750 school buses in BC. Roughly two thirds of these (1,250 buses) are owned by school districts, and one third (500 buses) are owned by private contractors. Each bus has a lifespan of 10-14 years (depending on the model and mileage), then it must be replaced. Typically, about 100 buses are replaced every year.
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. Decisions about next year's school bus purchases will be made in May/June.
What about the cost?
Electric buses can save operators money in the long run. Despite higher initial costs, electric school buses can save operators money in the long run. A new electric school buses cost more than twice as much as diesel buses (roughly $360,000 compared to $145,000), but because electric buses have very few moving parts, maintainence costs are lower. So are fuel costs. And funding is available through grants and risk-free loans to help bus operators make the switch. This funding is available for both district and private operators.
What you can do
We're launching Our Electric School Bus Campaign to help you get your school district to make the switch and bring healthier more sustainable buses to your community. Register here for our first information session.
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 with creating a presentation, or connect you with other parents in your area through the ForOurKids network.
2) Talk to your board
School board trustees are involved in decisions about bus purchases. Present to your board - let them know about the benefits of electric buses, what funding is available, and how important this issue is to you and other parents. Remember, they are elected representatives - and they are there to listen to you. Find their contact details here.
3) Get some publicity
Media - of all kinds - is a great way to reach a broader audience. Consider writing an op-ed or letter to the editor in your local paper, or put out your message on your social media channels. Think about how to reach people in your local community.
4) Let your MLA know
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.
For older kids, CleanBC has a number of lesson plans you can explore. If you have younger kids, try this colouring sheet to get them interested.