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Replace Diesel with Electric School Buses, Boost Learning

President Biden’s big infrastructure act includes $5 billion to replace diesel-powered school buses with electric buses. Perhaps that’s why South Dakota is one of just ten states that hasn’t committed to deploying any electric school buses:

Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, "Electric School Buses Are Taking Students Back to School—Bringing Cleaner Air and Lower Maintenance Costs to School DIstricts Across the Country," The Conversation, 2022.08.17.
Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, “Electric School Buses Are Taking Students Back to School—Bringing Cleaner Air and Lower Maintenance Costs to School DIstricts Across the Country,The Conversation, 2022.08.17.

Many advantages accrue from switching school bus fleets from diesel to electric, like less pollution, less asthma and child deaths, and less maintenance required on the 20 parts in an electric motor versus 2,000 in a diesel motor. Electric school buses may also improve student learning:

Cleaner air is likely to pay off in improved student performance. In a 2019 study, researchers found that retrofitting 2,656 diesel buses in Georgia – adding new components to reduce the buses’ emissions – was associated with positive effects on students’ respiratory health, and that districts with retrofitted diesel buses experienced test score gains in English and math. Since even modernized diesel vehicles still generate air pollutants, shifting to electric buses would likely produce even larger increases [Marpillero-Colomina, 2022.08.17].

Some South Dakota districts are replacing diesel buses with propane buses, which do pollute less than diesel engines. But electric buses emit zero pollution from the tailpipe, and making electricity creates less carbon pollution than making propane. Across the total production and use scale, propane actually emits more carbon than diesel:

World Resources Institute, "The Evidence Is Clear: Electric School Buses Are the Best Choice to Reduce Emissions," School Transportation News, 2022.08.24.
World Resources Institute, “The Evidence Is Clear: Electric School Buses Are the Best Choice to Reduce Emissions,” School Transportation News, 2022.08.24.

Schools, change your engines so you can charge your engines. Swap out those diesel dinosaurs for clean, brain-boosting, planet-saving electric buses!


  1. Greg Deplorable 2022-08-29 06:45

    Electrical engineering always looks simple to those who aren’t EE’s. So they write legislation like this, with no understanding of what it takes to generate and wheel power across large swaths of the country. That’s how I can tell that liberal arts majors wrote this legislation.

  2. jerry 2022-08-29 07:09

    Hello Greg Deplorable, yes, smart people are writing good legislation that can actually make an economy grow. Here is something even a fascist could like on a hot summer day, a cool breeze from the airconditioner.

    “Across much of the U.S. this summer, as temperatures soared nearly every afternoon, air conditioners clicked on again and again, sending electricity demand through the roof. Just north of Boston, the normally temperate coastal city of Beverly was no exception. Since the Fourth of July, the city has experienced nearly 20 days when temperatures crested 90 degrees Fahrenheit, 10 degrees above the average high.

    When electricity demand surged, the city’s small fleet of electric school buses sprang to life, sending electricity stored in their massive batteries back into the grid to prevent brownouts and blackouts. So far, the buses have contributed 10 MWh of electricity on 30 separate occasions to National Grid, the regional utility, according to Highland Electric Fleets, which supplies and manages the buses.” Across much of the U.S. this summer, as temperatures soared nearly every afternoon, air conditioners clicked on again and again, sending electricity demand through the roof. Just north of Boston, the normally temperate coastal city of Beverly was no exception. Since the Fourth of July, the city has experienced nearly 20 days when temperatures crested 90 degrees Fahrenheit, 10 degrees above the average high. ”

    Man, can you imagine a power outage and then, thanks to your taxpayer funded school district, the gall darn power comes on. Makes students all want to be electical liberal arts majors.

  3. Greg Deplorable 2022-08-29 07:34

    Yeah, there is a lot of money to be made in riding out scams.
    Batteries don’t generate power Jerry and are far too inefficient to play a role with the grid unless you want to pay 10x per MWh.

    EE stuff again, the reality is liberal dreams will be met with the hard wall of engineering limitations.

  4. larry kurtz 2022-08-29 07:47

    All fuels are bridge fuels. But ores containing lithium are hideously carbon intensive to mine and the General Mining Law of 1872 allows foreign companies to exploit public lands instead of sharing the pecuniary rewards with landowners. So some decommissioned coal fired power plants are being remediated in part by harvesting needed minerals from coal waste.

  5. larry kurtz 2022-08-29 07:50

    The US Forest Service is often powerless to stop the extractive industry from permanently altering sensitive watersheds because of the 1872 law. Repeal or even reform of the 1872 statute has been thwarted repeatedly by the earth hating Republican Party.

  6. larry kurtz 2022-08-29 08:01

    Heating a school bus during a South Dakota January with batteries using electric resistance heaters is simply ridiculous.

  7. larry kurtz 2022-08-29 08:02

    The cost of subsidizing, manufacturing, transporting, erecting, maintaining then removing just one wind turbine eyesore bat and bird killer would take a thousand subscribers to energy self-reliance. Microgrid technologies are destined to enhance tribal sovereignty, free communities from electric monopolies and net-metering only gives control back to utilities enabled by moral hazard.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-29 08:29

    So I missed the part where Greg D went beyond the usual fossil-fuel-addict ranting at provided the actual engineering evidence that liberals know nothing and that the electric school buses that lots of other states are adopting are not simpler, less polluting, and practical alternatives for student transportation.

  9. jerry 2022-08-29 08:56

    Bill Gates, an electrical guy in liberal arts, has a solution for the power grid that will utilize an old coal plant in the same place that J.C. Penney struck paydirt.

    Hide and watch as more and more ways are discovered to be efficient people movers without too much disruption. I hope that there will come a way to distill water so we can grow stuff and still make something to drink.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-29 09:10

    “Ridiculous”? Alaska’s first electric school bus does use more electricity for heat on the coldest days than it uses for locomotion; however, in its first year of service, it ran routes every day, even when it was nearly 40 below, temperatures that shut South Dakota schools down.

  11. Donald Pay 2022-08-29 09:53

    jerry, I can’t stand Bill Gates and TerraPower. His mini-nukes are unsafe, require massive federal subsidies and create more nuclear waste per energy produced than the big nuke plants. Bill Gates is a con man, just like Trump.

  12. John 2022-08-29 10:04

    Greg Deplorable and the doubting Thomas’es: leave your siloed, mechanistic, linear mindset.
    Welcome to the 21st Century. In the past decade on these pages I argued with an SDSMT EE type that the future was solar. Now the least expensive electricity is solar-wind-battery. Why did my argument prevail – the EE type didn’t understand exponential growth and transformational systemic change.
    Here’s how fast change happens. In the 1900 NYC Easter parade there was 1 car surrounded by horse drawn carriages. 13 years years later a photo of the parade shows 1 horse drawn carriage surrounded by hundreds of cars. The buggy industry died in 13 years. Learn about market disruption. This month the Australian Bank said it would stop making loans on new internal combustion and hybrid vehicles in 2025 – because soon the late-model cars will be worth less than the remaining loan balance.
    Youtube Tony Seba for an updated tutorial:

    School districts and community bus fleets should adopt to electric buses, quickly. (Heating the bus is a non-sequitur – no one heated the horses my mother and her siblings road a mile and half to country school. No one heated the Moccasin Creek when they ice skated the same 1.5 miles to school.)
    Spend 28 minutes with Zac and Jesse to LEARN about “The Magic School Bus” advantages.

    One electric school bus saves a district $700 per month. SD has 2,669 school buses registered, according to Statista.
    That’s a savings of $1.86 million PER MONTH or, conservatively using a 9 month school year . . . a savings of $16.8 million per school year. Name one school district that couldn’t use their slice of that savings.
    It’s not surprising, but it is depressing that South Dakota continues its self-imposed living in the past century. One has to ask why South Dakota bothers with hosting 2 university engineering departments and several accounting departments.

  13. larry kurtz 2022-08-29 10:07

    Ripping up the Earth for lithium and praseodymium on public lands is unsustainable. And operating diesel powered equipment in the frozen tundra of South Dakota, in subarctic and arctic conditions has never been easy so adaptations of battery operated motors makes some sense. Some of us are old enough to remember VWs had dangerous gasoline heaters because air cooled engines suck in real winters.

  14. leslie 2022-08-29 10:16

    my summa cum laude engineer uncle loved saying: “we ingineers dont need no English” meaning NARROW FOCUS excludes creativity! (death by foxaholism, btw)

    sorry greg but “the hard wall of engineering limitations” is a fiction of your deplorable politics.

  15. leslie 2022-08-29 11:15

    New York Times and others reported on an eye-catching bit of fine print in the Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA. Running through the legislative text is language that “define[s] the carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels as an ‘air pollutant.’”

    Senator Ted Cruz said, “It’s buried in there … the Democrats are trying to overturn the Supreme Court’s West Virginia v. EPA victory.”

    …what is important is the political fact that Democrats acted at all to take on [a Supreme Court] intent on micromanaging Congress and executive agencies and in the interest of Republican agendas and interests—in particular, the priorities of Republican megadonors who also happen to have funded the justices’ ascent to the power they now possess on the court.”

  16. Greg Deplorable 2022-08-29 11:49

    Divorcing yourself from hydrocarbons without a replacement that isn’t (solar & wind) is a fairytale, which Europe is finding out. Solar and wind are not conducive to increasing baseload, especially during off peak. This isn’t new information, but they require 100% backup, so you are still married to the hydrocarbon industry.

    If EV’s are the future and emissions reductions are a goal then Nuclear power should be at the forefront of the conversation.

  17. larry kurtz 2022-08-29 11:52

    Fermilab boasts a $2 million annual economic impact and naming a dark matter lab 5000 feet below Lead after a lecherous, usurious billionaire from Sioux Falls sticks in plenty of craws in South Dakota yet real science is getting done there. The Homestake Mine represents 8000 feet closer to the geothermal potential capable of powering much of the region. But South Dakota is dumbing down requirements for math teachers because graduates flee the state where the SD Republican Party ridicules educated people and perennially threatens funding for public radio.

  18. leslie 2022-08-29 11:57

    Cruz’s slip acknowledging Republicans’ politicizing SCOTUS by packing its 6-3 conservative majority, involves for more than “four decades, the Council for National Policy, or CNP…the secret hub of the radical right, coordinating the activities of right-wing strategists, donors, media platforms, and activists. Its membership and meetings have long been undisclosed…” as is “the CNP’s role in disrupting the democratic process. CNP archives illustrate the extensive planning its members undertook to discredit the 2020 election results, undermine local election officials, and incite the protest on January 6, 2021. The House select committee on January 6 has subpoenaed CNP election expert Cleta Mitchell, and … 29 texts exchanged between then–White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Supreme Court spouse Ginni Thomas (a board member of the CNP’s lobbying arm) in support of Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the election. The Conservative Partnership Institute, which has attracted ample attention for its role in election subversion, is closely tied to…[and] has served as a public face for CNP tactics developed behind closed doors.

    The “vast right wing conspiracy” indeed!

  19. sx123 2022-08-29 12:50

    There is at least one reason why data centers use diesel generators for backup: electrical plants are single points of failure.

    I guess one could back them up with a stream of electric buses…

    And when the grid gets hacked, it’s nice to know one can still mow the weeds using a gas powered mower.

    Reducing petro fuels fine, eliminating them? Highly doubtful. Hard to beat petro’s portability, reliability and btu content.

  20. larry kurtz 2022-08-29 13:25

    Utilities are not your friends. They will screw you and pass the savings to the other guy.

  21. Donald Pay 2022-08-29 13:35

    Many districts contract out bus service, so there is relatively little control until contracts are renewed. Districts could impose some requirements or incentives in their contracting language. Many middle school and high school students in my hometown use the city bus system, which is switching over to all electric buses.

    When I was a school board member in Rapid City, we voted to end our contracting of bus service and the district took over those responsibilities. We did that for a number of reasons, mostly because it was fiscally responsible at the time to make the change. Also, complaints seemed to end up with the district, so if we were taking the heat for the contractor, we might as well be responsible for correcting the problems.

  22. jerry 2022-08-29 13:37

    Nationalize the electric grid, yep, even you Texas. We pay too damn much for our power so there is no incentive for power company’s to try to do better. Put the PUC out to pasture as they do nothing of use, but for themselves.

  23. larry kurtz 2022-08-29 13:37

    Here in our community of about 125 off-grid properties there are some fully electric vehicles and some hybrids, too. Our 4k system will charge a vehicle if the the sun is out but we need four wheel drive for our road and putting a $200,000 EV over it three times a week is simply ridiculous.

  24. P. Aitch 2022-08-29 13:47

    @GregDeplorable – Welcome back. Love it when you challenge our champion’s wit, research skills, and wisdom against your own. Next time don’t hold back and don’t be a stranger, friend.

  25. Greg Deplorable 2022-08-29 18:42

    Just think it’s only a $200,000 premium over a diesel bus. If John is correct with $700/mo savings that figures to a mere 23 yr payback.

  26. John 2022-08-29 21:12

    Oh yee of little faith . . .
    MIT discovered battery technology using aluminum, sulphur, and salt – fast, low cost, safe:

    Graphene Manufacturing Group developed a battery that doesn’t use lithium, charges 70% faster and has 300% more energy:

    Go back. Actually LISTEN and WATCH the MAGIC BUS segment. Students who ride diesel school buses exhibit lower IQs, worse lifetime health, and earn lower salaries than do students who didn’t ride buses or had rides in “clean” buses.

    “At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past.” – Maurice Maeterlinck

  27. Greg Deplorable 2022-08-29 21:31

    John please think how many teachers will have to lose their job or go years without a raise just to pay those greedy EV makers for $200-400K buses?
    Or kids that will go hungry at school because some billionaire bus maker soaked the district for a fleet of EV buses.

  28. jerry 2022-08-30 09:24

    Whatever Greg Deplorable says, go the opposite and you will be correct. Here is some good news about charging your EV in about as long as it would take an IPhone. The world is changing and Greg Deplorable and his like will just have to go pound sand.

    “CHICAGO, Aug. 22, 2022 — Despite the growing popularity of electric vehicles, many consumers still hesitate to make the switch. One reason is that it takes so much longer to power up an electric car than it does to gas up a conventional one. But speeding up the charging process can damage the battery and reduce its lifespan. Now, scientists report that they’ve designed superfast charging methods tailored to power different types of electric vehicle batteries in 10 minutes or less without harm.

    The researchers will present their results today at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS Fall 2022 is a hybrid meeting being held virtually and in-person Aug. 21-25, with on-demand access available Aug. 26–Sept. 9. The meeting features nearly 11,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

    “Fast charging is the key to increasing consumer confidence and overall adoption of electric vehicles,” says Eric Dufek, Ph.D., who is presenting this work at the meeting. “It would allow vehicle charging to be very similar to filling up at a gas station.” Such an advance could help the U.S. reach President Biden’s goal that by 2030, half of all vehicles sold should be electric or hybrid.”

    Erik Dufek has a Ph.D.

  29. Greg Deplorable 2022-08-30 14:43

    Cold Fusion Jerry for the win. Did you get that from watching “The Saint” back in 1997? Kilmer was still at his peak.

  30. larry kurtz 2022-08-30 15:08

    It will be 130 degrees in Zell before my high school in Elkton pays $400,000 a unit and for a charging station for even ten electric buses but if Avangrid paid for the whole thing, why not? The Coteau des Prairies is already an eyesore and migratory bird killing field.

  31. John 2022-09-04 10:35

    In the past 2 years GM made offers to buyout its Cadillac dealers. Over 360 accepted the offer.
    This month GM offers to buyout its Buick dealers. Expect hundreds to accept.
    GM, like, Ford, is attempting to mirror Tesla with a direct to consumer sales. Few in their right mind like going to dealers. Fewer like haggling with dealers, games over undercoating, etc. Dealers make most of their money on services. EV require far fewer services. (Granted that Tesla’s customer service leaves much to be desired, it’s improving.)

    Here’s a 12-minute clip debunking the fossil fuel industries bunk that EVs are bad.

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