State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette recently announced the launch of a groundbreaking program that will protect schoolchildren from harmful air pollutants, particularly in overburdened communities, by providing grants for school districts and school bus operators to purchase electric school buses and install charging infrastructure.
New Jersey’s Electric School Bus Grant Program is made possible by legislation Gov. Phil Murphy signed in 2022 to provide up to $45 million in funding over three years to replace diesel school buses with battery-electric school buses and to install associated charging infrastructure across the state.
The new program also will fund pilot projects that use the battery on the bus to provide power to a building during off-peak hours when the bus is parked.
The DEP will hold webinars Tuesday and Feb. 14 to discuss the advantages of the program and to assist school districts and operators apply for funding.
“There is nothing more important to all of us than the health and well-being of our children,” LaTourette said. “Yet, the fact is that many thousands of them are transported back and forth each day in fossil fuel-powered buses that emit particulates and other pollutants that are especially harmful to their developing lungs and bodies. Electric school buses are our solution and a proven technology that will improve the health of kids and our communities. The DEP’s Electric School Bus Grant Program will jump-start these efforts across the state, spurring the wide use of these buses in cities and towns across New Jersey.”
As the state’s first comprehensive effort to help school districts and operators make the switch to electric school buses, the program ultimately will lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming and worsen the impacts of climate change.
Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, making up 37% of all emissions. Of the 21,700 school buses registered in New Jersey, more than 99% run on fossil fuels. While providing vital transportation services, these buses negatively impact the health of students and residents of the communities in which they operate.
Over the years, the DEP has assisted school districts with retrofitting and/or upgrading diesel-powered school buses to better protect students. The DEP succeeded in having more than 7,000 school buses retrofitted with upgraded cabin ventilation systems that prevent diesel fumes from entering the buses each time the door opened. Electric school buses represent the next generation of protection by eliminating all emissions from buses.
In launching the Electric School Bus Grant Program, the DEP is making the first $15 million round of funding available following the allocation of funds by the New Jersey Legislature last month. Legislation for the grant program was signed in 2022. Grants are available to school districts and school bus operators seeking to purchase two or more electric school buses and for a bidirectional bus and charging infrastructure pilot, which enables electricity to flow from vehicles to buildings to offset building energy demand. The program is funded through the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ Clean Energy Fund. Electric school buses qualify for the state’s sales-tax exemption.