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KSNF/KODE — Hundreds of school districts across the country will soon receive new eBuses thanks to a rebate program from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Out of all the school districts nationwide that applied (nearly 2,400), 401 were chosen to receive rebates totaling nearly $1 billion to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission (ZE) models, all in an effort to reduce harmful emissions from older, dirtier buses.

The grants from the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program will allow a number of selected districts to receive a pre-determined number of “clean” school buses that will accelerate the full transition to zero-emission vehicles and produce cleaner air in and around schools and communities.

Locally, three school districts will benefit from the new zero-emission model buses. In Southwest Missouri, Cassville R-IV Schools was awarded five buses worth $1,975,000. The El Dorado Springs R-II School District will receive 13 new buses worth $5,135,000. In Northeast Oklahoma, Grove Public Schools was chosen as a grant recipient, and will also receive 13 of the new eBuses worth just over $5 million.

“It’s a win-win for us. We applied for the funding and the EPA reviewed the applications in September of last year. Not long ago, we got a notification that we were awarded the grant, and we actually were approved for all the buses that we asked for. We put in for 13 buses because we have 13 routes — 11 regular routes and two special education buses with lifts on them,” said Grove Public Schools Superintendent, Pat Dodson.

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Superintendents for the three local districts that will soon receive their zero-emission buses, all say the new vehicles will not be used for long-distance travel. According to the EPA, a fully-charged ZE school bus will run for approximately 100-to-150 miles before needing a charge. Luckily, the cost of charging infrastructure is included in the funding.

“As for the charging ports for these buses — I think the EPA allowed $20,000 per port, so none of the money is coming out of our pocket. It’s all just an incredible savings to the district, considering everything we’re getting with this grant,” said El Dorado Springs R-II Schools Superintendent, Heath Oates.

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“First of all, they’re cleaner. Second of all, from what I’m told by school districts who have them already, they work better on slick roads, muddy roads, hilly roads, and things like that. They drive better and the drivers that have driven both diesel and electric models actually prefer the eBuses,” said Jake Kloss, Transportation Director for Cassville R-IV Schools.

And that’s the main point of the government program: Providing clean transportation to school districts across the country that wouldn’t be able to afford the new zero-emission buses without the grant funding. But, when it comes to purchasing more eBuses to add to each district’s fleet, all three local superintendents who received funding for the new transportation technology said the current price of each new ZE bus puts the vehicles out of reach of what they can currently afford.

“The price-tag on a new zero-emission bus is approximately $350,000. Compare that with a new diesel bus of similar size, which is priced around $120,000, brand new. The eBuses are about three times the cost. Without this funding from the EPA, it’s not a viable option for most districts to invest in,” Superintendent Oates stated. “The districts that can afford them, are buying them because of the high price of diesel. If the price of diesel continues to rise, and the electric prices stay stable, these new electric buses would become more competitive. But as of right now, most districts just can’t afford them. But when you get 13 of them for free, like we are, it’s a heck of a deal and a great opportunity for us, as well as other districts that are getting them, to test their capabilities and maybe even find ways to bring down the purchase price,” said Oates.

You can find more information on the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program, HERE.