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The development of environmentally-friendly vehicles has been the focus of states and vehicle manufacturers for the greater part of a decade, however not much focus has been placed on updating the essential vehicles that are responsible for transporting students throughout the state and country to school each day; school buses. According to the New Jersey Department of Education, more than 800,000 students throughout the state are transported to and from school by bus each day, by tens of thousands of school buses. Most, if not all of these school buses, are diesel gas-guzzling vehicles that significantly contribute the air pollution and increased emissions throughout the state.
Plans to begin the transition from diesel to electric buses were initiated in February of 2021 when Governor Phil Murphy stated plans to use a $100 million settlement to, in part, transition diesel buses to electric in some of the state’s hardest hit urban communities such as Newark. A full-sized 40-foot electric school bus can cost $230,000 to $400,000 per vehicle, two to almost four times the cost of a $110,000 diesel-powered school bus. To further assist with these costs, the State Department of Environmental Protection awarded $5.7 million in grants to transportation providers in three districts — Trenton, Elizabeth and Jersey City, said Janet Bamford, a New Jersey School Board Association spokeswoman. Those grants will put 15 electric school buses on the road, five in each district. Of the $100 million referenced by Governor Murphy, $10 million would be used to add another 27 electric buses in six New Jersey school districts.
The money allocated from the State is a good start; however, federal assistance will always be more than welcome from the State in order to get this initiative off-of-the-ground. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”) awarded $10.5 million to replace 473 older diesel school buses nationwide. New Jersey benefited from this initiative, by receiving $500,000 across five entities to replace 25 buses across the State. The funding selectees in the State include: Berlin Township Board of Education, First Student in Berlin, Irvin Raphael, Inc., Toms River Regional Schools and Yellow Bus Leasing.com, LLC in Bellmawr. While the EPA has also implemented standards to decrease the emissions of new diesel engines by more than 90 percent, this nationwide funding by the EPA shows significant efforts by the federal government to decrease emissions of school buses; vehicles that are used every single day throughout every municipality in the State and the Country. For the residents of New Jersey, who are most impacted by the reduction in emissions, the hope is that a reduction in emissions by the “green” school bus experiment will result more state and federal money being earmarked for similar initiatives.
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