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Renewable Energy

New York Commits to 100% Electric School Buses By 2035

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It won’t be an overnight process, but the nationwide adoption of electric vehicles is finally beginning to ramp up. Over 10 percent of all vehicle sales were either fully electric or hybrid cars this year. Today’s percentage of fully electric vehicles is around six times larger than five years ago. The production numbers paint an even more exciting picture. The availability of cars and trucks with an electric powertrain surpasses that of hybrid powertrains for the first time ever. 

This trend is mainly consumer-driven, and there’s room for consumer support to climb ever higher. A common thought among federal and state officials is to get involved in the transition. If state agencies were to convert their vehicle operations into electric, it would send a positive message for using these alternatives within the community. Even better, it would also take thousands of high-emissions cars off the road very quickly.

Photo courtesy: Marcelo Cidrack

The recent announcement out of the state of New York is a prime example of such action.

In early April, it was announced that Governor Kathy Hochul had agreed to a plan to replace 100 percent of state school buses with electric models by 2035.

The plan is part of the state’s $220 billion budget resolution and will be applied to the roughly 50,000 buses currently in operation throughout New York state. 

The decision is a landmark commitment to sustainability when nationwide efforts to electrify municipal fleets are limited to only a handful of vehicles at a time. Full-scale electrification can be a monumental effort for any state, let alone New York given the state’s high population density.

The impact though is impressive– converting the buses in New York City alone will remove as many as 650,000 passenger vehicles from regular use. 

Photo courtesy: Jannis Lucas

The plan’s 2035 target date includes a more immediate deadline for all new state bus purchases to be carbon-neutral by 2027. Of the currently agreed-upon budget, $500 million has been set aside to help statewide school districts in the early stages of the transition, including developing a team to identify any existing roadblocks that could stand in the way of a smooth transition. 

Photo courtesy: Hannah Busing

“New York’s 2023 state budget marks the beginning of a new era for the iconic yellow school bus – one in which children are no longer forced to inhale toxic diesel exhaust and instead breathe clean air on electric buses,” says the World Resources Institute’s Justin Balik of the decision. In a nation where 25 million children ride these buses every day to school, reducing their exposure to harmful pollutants is key in the eyes of many experts and lawmakers. “This plan makes New York the first state in the country to commit to fully electrifying its school bus fleet and sets a clear benchmark for other states looking to protect kids’ health.”

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