Although a top concern was children's health, these should save the district money.
Eco-friendly vehicles are hard to say no to. In fact, the entire board of trustees of the Austin Independent School District (AISD) agreed that buses should go completely electric. It voted to convert the district’s entire bus fleet by 2035.
This pioneering move in Texas has already been in place in Boston, New York, and other U.S. districts. Everman Independent School District, near Fort Worth, was first to purchase the electric vehicles, but Austin sets the state record with a total overhaul.
The buses used currently are diesel, which is used in larger vehicles for power and fewer fill-ups. Electric buses, which tend to be more expensive upfront, rely on batteries that need to recharge, like any electric vehicle. However, electric buses have been in increasingly wider use for years, and have demonstrated savings over time through lower operating costs.
The release lays out a time frame to start turning the fleet over, measured by new purchases of electric vehicles:
2023: 25 percent of new school bus purchases
2027: 50 percent of new school bus purchases
2030: 100 percent of new school bus purchases
2035: No more diesel buses remain
In addition to being cheaper and more environmentally friendly, these buses do not expose their riders to exhaust fumes. This was the top concern listed by local officials, including Mayor Steve Adler, who wrote in requesting a commitment to electric vehicles.
“Austin has long been considered a leader on health and environmental issues in the state, and electric school buses offer an opportunity for AISD to take the lead in protecting our environment, economic interests and the health of our school children,” said communications manager of the TexPIRG Education Fund, Shelley Livaudais, in a press release.
The initial call to action asked the district to set aside funds in its proposed bond on the November ballot. It complied, and plans to use funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), among other government programs specifically for schools to access these vehicles. The EPA has a rebate program, and is expected to announce recipients soon.
“We applaud AISD for prioritizing the health of our children and the sustainability of our planet,” said executive director of the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center, Luke Metzger. “By going electric, the motors on the bus will be clean, clean, clean.”