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More electric school buses are coming to Maine

School Buses Going Electric
Michael Casey
An electric school bus, leased by Beverly Public Schools in Beverly, Mass., receives a charge at a charging station in a bus yard, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in Beverly, Mass. The district is planning to convert half its 44-bus fleet to electric by 2025 and the rest by 2030. Their transition is part of a trend in districts across the country to shift from diesel to electric school buses to improve air quality and combat climate change.

A consultant for Mount Desert Island High School has found that the state's first electric school bus has served the district well. And more of the vehicles will be coming to Maine, to replace conventional diesel-burning busses.

MDI High School was the first in the state to put an electric school bus through its paces, in cooperation with a coalition of nonprofits, and using funding from the Volkswagen emissions settlement. During the last school year, the bus traveled 80 miles a day without charging, and a longer route with a charge at midday.

Alex Pine, a consultant with VEIC, analyzed the data from the first year, and says the bus greatly reduced particulate pollution, and greenhouse gasses.

"Over the course of this past school year, running the school bus saved over 30,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions," Pine says. "So that's just over 15 tons."

Electric buses are now also in operation in Vinalhaven and Camden, and soon coming to Falmouth. MDI schools are ordering 6 more for next year, and 60 Maine schools have applied to the Environmental Protection Agency for funds to buy electric buses. And the EPA announced on Thursday that it is doubling its Clean School Bus Program funding for this year, to nearly $1 billion.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.