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Redlands Unified School District approves purchase of new electric school bus

As part of a statewide push for sustainable transportation, the district will be reimbursed

Redlands Unified School District is adding an electric bus to its fleet through a state greant. (Photo: Karolina Images)

REDLANDS, Calif. — The Redlands Unified School District (RUSD) has approved the purchase of a new zero-emission school bus and it comes at almost no cost to the District.

Why it matters: Exhaust from diesel school buses can impact students' respiratory health and hurt cognitive function. Plus, diesel buses emit greenhouse gas emissions that pollute air around neighborhoods and schools.

Details of the purchase: The school board approved the purchase of a new zero-emission bus from Model 1 for $400,070 at its meeting on Jan. 9. The cost of the bus, up to $400,000, will be reimbursed through a California Air Resources Board (CARB) grant agreement.

The money comes from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. The trust includes $423 million for California to mitigate excess nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions stemming from VW's illegal use of a "defeat device" to skirt diesel emissions tests.

Electric vs. diesel buses: Despite the fact that electric school buses may cost up to four times more than traditional diesel buses, there are several benefits to having an electric fleet. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, school buses are nearly 60% more energy efficient. There is also less maintenance when it comes to the upkeep of electric buses which can save costs in the long run.

The EDF also noted that each electric school bus prevents 291 metric tons of climate pollution. Diesel exhaust can negatively affect children, especially those with underlying respiratory illnesses.

Zoom out: Schools around the state will receive new electric buses through funding from the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus Program. U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, a Democrat from California, announced the $88 million award on Jan. 8.

Padilla introduced the Clean Commute for Kids Act in 2021, which was the model for this new program. The program will provide $5 billion over five years to school districts to support the transition to zero-emission and low-emission school buses.

"A successful day of learning for our students starts with a diesel-free commute each morning," said Senator Padilla. "I've seen firsthand the harmful health and respiratory impacts polluted air from outdated buses can cause our children, having grown up riding diesel-powered school buses in Pacoima. Modernizing our bus system is a crucial investment in our children, our health, and our environment."

For a full list of the school districts receiving the award, visit this link.

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