Updating an aging school bus fleet can be a daunting process for lots of districts. Not only is cost a major concern, but there are also lots of considerations that go into choosing the best buses for your district. Ensuring a reliable and safe ride to and from school every day is an important goal that needs the right tools and team to be achieved. Surveying the electric school bus market and choosing one of the electric school bus companies out there is an ideal choice for many districts to accomplish those objectives.
Here, we’ll dive deep into the electric school bus market and give you all the information you need to get the lay of the land. We’ll go over the major players when it comes to electric school bus companies, some of the typical costs associated with switching, and what the future of the market looks like, among other relevant details. If you’re looking for thorough answers to your most pressing questions about the electric school bus market, you’re in the right place.
Before we get into all that, though, let’s look at the state of school buses in America more generally.
The Broader School Bus Market
It’ll be helpful to have a more comprehensive understanding of the school bus market so that electric bus companies’ role in it makes more sense. Obviously, the wider school bus market contains lots of fuel options. Some of them are more eco-friendly than others.
Diesel is still the most popular fuel choice for school buses and advancements have made it a cleaner fuel choice in recent years.
You’ll also see some school buses fueled by traditional gasoline. These are definitely less common than diesel buses, but they’re out there.
Diesel and gas are pretty standard vehicle fuel options, but there are also alternative fuels that can power school buses. One type of fuel you might have heard about as an alternative to buying from electric school bus companies is propane. Or, you might be more familiar with compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. We won’t get into the specifics of these alternatives here, but just know that there are plenty of options out there. The broader school bus market is a lot more diverse than it once was, and the electric school bus market’s growth is part of that.
How many electric school bus companies are there?
It might seem like the electric school bus market is small, and compared to traditionally fueled buses, it is. However, there are still plenty of high-quality options when it comes to electric school bus companies. You won’t have to settle or lower your standards.
Currently, there are many electric school bus companies in the U.S. These are brands that manufacture their own school buses powered by electricity. We’ll look forward to the future of electric school bus companies in a later section.
There are a few major players in the electric school bus market, and it shouldn’t be too overwhelming to choose one of them. You won’t be inundated with options. And while you can definitely take your time to find the brand that best suits your needs, we have one manufacturer that stands above the rest.
Blue Bird: The Best of the Electric School Bus Companies
Out of all the electric school bus companies out there, our preferred choice is Blue Bird. It commands much of the electric school bus market, and for good reason. According to the World Resources Institute, they have the most electric school buses, both already in school districts’ fleets or awarded/ordered.
There are lots of reasons why Blue Bird is trusted by so many school districts across the country. Their vehicles have a long track record of reliability and performance, and they go through rigorous safety tests before they make it out on the road. Blue Bird is also a major innovator in the industry, which makes sense as to why they are the leader in electric school buses.
You can read more about Blue Bird electric school buses in particular in the post we already wrote about them. Since you can go there for specifics, we won’t get too deep in the weeds about what Blue Bird brings to the table, but it’s worthwhile to briefly go over the broad strokes.
What kinds of electric school buses are out there?
Now that we’ve established which electric school bus companies are out there, let’s look more closely at the kinds of buses they manufacture. These companies make Type A, C, and D school buses powered by electricity. Type C is the most common, followed by D and A, respectively.
It makes sense for the larger models of buses to be more popular. They’re powerful work horses for school districts trying to get as many students as possible to and from school. However, other districts looking to add or upgrade a smaller bus to their fleet can also find electric options that will suit their needs. You don’t need to worry about capacity if that’s something holding you back from exploring your electric options. Whether you need a small bus or one that holds upwards of 80 passengers, electric buses are definitely an option.
How is the electric school bus market expanding?
We’ve gone over a lot of the different reasons why the electric school bus market is more and more appealing to districts, but the actual logistics are a different story. This section will focus on how those high-minded ideals about the efficacy of electric vehicles are actually translated into wider adoption.
Federal funding is one way more school districts have been able to purchase from electric school bus companies. Finding a way to pay for these buses is the biggest hurdle lots of districts face, so the government stepping in to provide tax credits, rebates, and grants can make it a lot more achievable.
Another big reason the electric school bus market has been expanding in recent years is because more geographical locations are adopting the technology. Suburban coastal areas, typically, had a bit of a head start with electric school bus companies, but now, there are lots of these buses in more rural and midwestern areas. That number will only keep expanding as more and more districts are convinced of the benefits of this technology and are able to secure the required funding. We’ll go over those reasons in the next section.
Why switch to electric school buses?
The obvious answer to this question is environmental reasons. It’s common knowledge that transportation is a huge part of the greenhouse gas emissions that partially fuel climate change. So, choosing a more environmentally friendly option instead on a large enough scale can make a big difference. Electric vehicles don’t emit any of the harmful pollutants that other, traditional fuels do.
Are there other ways to add electric school buses to the fleet?
New electric school buses are great, but that’s not the only way the electric school bus market has been growing in recent years. There’s considerable demand for converting traditionally fueled buses into electric powered ones, too.
One of the biggest barriers to adding electric buses to a school district’s fleet is the cost. Electric school bus companies tend to charge more for a new, electric, transit-style bus than for traditional fuels, which is not in the budget for many districts. Although there are also numerous grants and other ways to acquire funding for new electric school buses, there are still large barriers to entry. Opting for a repower instead is one way to save costs.
This process takes a traditional, diesel-fueled school bus and converts it into an electric one. It’s a way to dip your district’s toe into the electric school bus market without committing to a brand-new school bus.
The Future of Electric School Bus Companies
Sustainably powered vehicles are definitely the way of the future. Electric vehicles have a big role to play in combating climate change. Electric school bus companies are likely to be a big part of that shift.
The geographic area served by electric school buses will only grow as they become more accessible and necessary.
Expansion into rural areas is another huge pocket of opportunity. The suburbs are where most electric school buses operate today, but that will also change over time.
How do you make the case for electric school bus companies over the alternatives?
We’ve already laid out quite a few reasons that electric school buses are superior to diesel, which fuels as much as 95 percent of the school buses in the country. But if you need it all in one succinct argument to convince the decision makers in your district that electric is the way to go, then this is the section for you.
First, it can be helpful to start with the fact that you won’t be completely changing the entire fleet overnight. Gradual adoption is how the electric school bus market grows. Replacing the very oldest buses, finding the best candidates for repowers, and looking at all options can be a good place to begin.
After you’ve established that this would be a gradual process, then you need to secure funding. There are lots of different programs that make electric buses more accessible to school districts. Do some research and find the ones that your district might qualify for.
Another part of the logistics is installing charging stations. To some naysayers, it might seem daunting to build the infrastructure necessary for an electric fleet. But when you clearly outline that that’s not the case and couple that with a gradual strategy, it can seem a lot easier.
Find your electric school bus at Central States.
We’ve thoroughly described the electric school bus market in America today, and we’ve also done some predicting on what it will look like in the coming years. So, armed with all that knowledge, you should be more prepared to convince the decision makers that your district is due to add an electric bus to its fleet.
These eco-friendly options are reliable and safe, and the infrastructure to support them will only grow in the coming years. Right now is a great time to begin securing funding and researching electric bus companies. Whether you’re looking for a repower or a brand-new bus, there should be an option that will fit your needs.
If you’re in Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, or Arkansas, start exploring the electric school bus market with us here at Central States Bus. We have a few different types of Blue Bird electric school buses to offer, and we’d be happy to help you find the right choice for your district. Don’t hesitate to reach out!