Feds Offer $500M for Electric School Buses. Will MT Participate?
Montana kids could soon be riding in electric buses.
Fans of electric cars are proud to tout their benefits. EVs are quiet, powerful, and typically have fewer mechanical parts that wear and break. They're usually far less expensive to drive per mile and obviously, there are no emissions.
Opponents raise valid concerns about EVs, primarily vehicle range between charges. In a huge state like Montana, it's not uncommon to drive 300+ miles one-way for business or pleasure. Other concerns are the hefty cost to replace the battery packs when they wear out, the availability of fast-charging stations, and the upfront cost of buying an electric car. Another concern is how batteries perform in our cold winters.
Montana is one of eight states eligible for $500M in federal funds for electric buses.
Last week (5/20) the Biden-Harris Administration announced that $500 million will be available to eight states and 28 tribal nations, through the US Environmental Protection Agency. The press release says the funds are,
...for school districts and other eligible school bus operators and contractors to begin replacing the nation’s fleet of school buses with clean, American-made, zero-emission buses.
The new funding is made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which invests an unprecedented $5 billion for low- and zero-emission school buses over the next five years.
Will Montana school districts apply for the grants?
I reached out to Billings School District 2 to see if they plan to apply for the EV bus money. Transportation Director Keith Adams said,
We are actively working through the details of the program to see what, if any, avenue we have to participate in the program. The part that makes it tricky is the fact that we don't own any buses and the program does not allow contractors, like First Student, to apply. That said, we have voiced our concerns to the EPA since the day they announced this program and they seem to have created a very narrow avenue that just might work for the district.
Schools have until August 19th to submit their proposals and Adams said they will be applying if there is any possibility they can utilize the funds.