BSD is among those school districts leading the country in the move from diesel-powered school buses to fully electric and propane-powered school buses as a way to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollutants which contribute to global warming.
What does BSD’s current electric fleet look like?
In 2021, BSD was the first school district in Oregon to acquire an electric school bus. Since then, we have added electric buses yearly, for a current total of 15 electric buses and 31 charging stations. Funding for these new buses has come from a combination of sources:
- In May 2022, Beaverton voters approved a $723-million bond, a portion of which is designated for replacement of diesel-powered buses with clean-burning propane and electric buses.
The Public Purpose Charge Program, administered by the Oregon Department of Energy, is funded through the state’s two largest electric utilities, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power. The funds support energy and fleet audits, energy efficiency improvements, and as of 2020, zero-emission vehicles and charging stations for Oregon schools.
The Portland General Electric’s Electric School Bus Fund, which is funded through the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Clean Fuels Program, issues grants to school districts. PGE covers the cost difference between a standard diesel bus and an electric bus plus the cost of installing charging infrastructure. As more school districts adopt electric buses, the price of those buses is likely to drop.
- In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected BSD and its Fleet Electrification Project to receive a $20-million grant from the 2023 Clean School Bus Grant Program. The grant will fund the replacement of 50 of the district's 225 diesel-powered school buses with zero-emission electric school buses.
What are the benefits of electric buses?
There are numerous advantages to the electrification our bus fleet:
Reduction in Emissions
Electric school buses reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half compared to diesel buses, emitting 52,000 pounds of carbon dioxide less per bus each year, resulting in fewer negative health impacts for students and staff, especially those suffering from asthma.
Reduction in Noise
Amazingly, an electric school bus is no louder than a Toyota Prius, meaning students can more easily hear each other, and drivers can more easily communicate with students on the bus. Quieter buses also mean less noise pollution in neighborhoods.
Reduction in Maintenance Costs
In a diesel-powered bus engine, there are 2,000 moving parts; in an electric bus engine, there are ten. Fewer parts result in a reduction in maintenance costs over time.
In addition, electricity is less expensive than diesel fuel, and electricity costs are more stable and predictable over time.
Besides electric school buses, how is BSD reducing its carbon footprint?
In addition to its 15 electric buses, BSD also has 65 clean-burning propane buses which use renewable propane. Renewable propane is an alternative fuel made from non-petroleum raw materials such as natural fats, vegetable oils and various types of grease. It’s chemically identical to conventional propane. The primary benefit of renewable propane is its carbon intensity, which can be four times lower than the carbon intensity of conventional propane, according to the Propane Education and Research Council. Propane also offers cost savings of nearly 50% per mile, improved engine efficiency, reduced tailpipe pollution and less greenhouse gas emissions compared to diesel buses — meaning students, drivers and community members are exposed to fewer harmful diesel emissions.
Will BSD ever eliminate all its diesel buses?
Currently, BSD has 225 diesel-powered buses. We’ll continue to replace these buses with electric and propane-powered buses, but it’s unlikely that we’ll eliminate all diesel buses in the near future. While the vast majority of our bus runs are local, we do need to maintain the ability to transport students longer distances for field trips and athletic contests. In the future, we anticipate that battery technology will improve and extend the distances that electric buses are able to travel on a single charge.
In the meantime, BSD has stopped using petroleum-based diesel fuel in favor of renewable diesel. Renewable diesel is a fossil-free alternative derived from agricultural waste products like vegetable oils and animal fats, making it a fully renewable and sustainable source of energy.
Renewable diesel burns cleaner than regular diesel, releasing less carbon and potentially reducing CO2 emissions by up to 100% (depending on the blend) compared to petroleum diesel. Additionally, it lowers tailpipe emissions such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide, total hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide. Other benefits of using renewable diesel over traditional diesel include better vehicle performance, reduced maintenance and maintenance costs, cleaner burning exhaust and improved mileage.
While the cost of renewable diesel is slightly higher at present, it’s expected to drop as the supply of renewable diesel expands and more businesses make the switch. The district expects the transition to be cost-neutral in the long run.
More Resources on Electrifying School Buses
- Electric School Bus Initiative: Why We Need to Transition to Electric School Buses, All About the Clean School Bus Program
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Clean School Bus Program, Benefits of Clean School Buses
- World Resource Institute: How to Make Electric School Buses Equitable in the U.S., The State of Electric School Bus Adoption in the U.S.
Do you have questions about BSD’s efforts?
If you have questions about BSD’s green initiatives, please feel free to contact us.
Thanks to the 2022 Bond and grants from Portland General Electric, BSD continues to grow its green fleet of buses.
In celebration of National Drive Electric Week, the Beaverton School District is excited to announce that it’s been selected by Portland General Electric’s 2022 Electric School Bus Fund to receive funding to purchase an electric school bus.
BSD is the first school district in the state of Oregon to receive delivery of two electric school buses, with the help of a $561,727 grant from Portland General Electric.