Dozens of electric yellow school buses are scheduled to roll on city streets as early as next fall, officials announced Tuesday.
The city is using an $18.5 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency with funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to purchase 51 electric school buses. It’s part of an effort to meet the city’s and the state’s shared goal of converting all New York’s school buses to run on electricity by 2035.
“By celebrating the transition to zero-emission school buses that are far better for our children, we're creating a better future for our children,” said Mayor Eric Adams, as he stood in front of a small Blue Bird school bus, which was adorned with a green logo on its side indicating it runs on electric batteries instead of diesel fuel.
The electric engines make the new rides quiet. As the new bus left City Hall following Tuesday’s announcement, the only sound it made was a loud beeping as it backed up.
The city has approximately 5,000 school buses that run on diesel, and is also working to convert buses that are 6 or 7 years old to electric power. The new electric buses will account for roughly 1% of the city’s overall fleet. But Robert Reichenbach, president of Bird Bus & Sales, said the move is a major step toward electrification. He estimates the whole state currently has just 36 electric school buses.
Reichenbach said it will cost $5 billion for New York to run all electric school buses.
“To convert all the buses it’s going to be a big task," he said.
His company is advising the city on logistics, charging systems, and conversion equipment for old buses.
“Each individual little bus or big bus does make a big difference for the children driving [in] it, for the driver driving in it and for the workers who are loading and unloading the school buses,” said Walter Mugdin, deputy regional administrator for the EPA, which awarded the grant to the city.
A ballot initiative in this month’s election could pay for even more electric buses in New York. If voters approve the $4.2 billion environmental bond proposal it would include $500 million for more electric buses and the charging infrastructure needed to support them.