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White House announces funding to help schools replace buses with cleaner choices

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some other news now - the Biden administration announced nearly $1 billion in federal funding to help school districts replace old diesel-powered buses with cleaner alternatives. Here's Marlon Hyde from our member station WABE in Atlanta.

(SOUND OF WIND BILLOWING)

MARLON HYDE, BYLINE: On a brisk morning, a yellow school bus pulls up to Stone Mountain Middle School in suburban Atlanta.

BRAD BEAUCHAMP: Welcome to the Bluebird all-American electric bus.

HYDE: This is Brad Beauchamp. As students and adults grab seats on the bus, Beauchamp holds a microphone and a fact sheet. He's with Bluebird, one of the largest school bus makers in the country, and it's based in Georgia.

BEAUCHAMP: I will be giving you some information about the electric bus as we're going along, including some fun facts. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

HYDE: Fun facts like...

BEAUCHAMP: There are over 480,000 school buses that transport 25 million students a day. If half of them were electric, they'd be able to power half the homes in Vermont for three days.

HYDE: But the percentage of electric school buses on America's roads is still very small - like less than 3%. As this electric bus quietly hums around the neighborhood, kids ask questions like, how much does it cost?

BEAUCHAMP: This bus is about two to three times the amount of a typical diesel bus with the same equipment on it.

HYDE: These buses can go for around $400,000, according to recent estimates. Now, the federal government is stepping in to help with the steep price tag. The goal is to eventually have over 27,000 of these electric buses on the road across 37 states. This suburban Atlanta district is getting $20 million to help buy the buses.

BERNANDO BROWN: I rode the school bus here in DeKalb County School District.

HYDE: Bernando Brown went to school here and is now in charge of student transportation. He says they have over 1,100 buses and none of them are EVs.

BROWN: We'll be replacing 50 of our buses. We'll be decommissioning 50 and adding an additional 50 EV buses.

HYDE: One big reason to go electric is less pollution. EPA administrator Michael Regan was on site to make the big grant announcement.

MICHAEL REGAN: As a parent myself of a 10-year-old, I can say with certainty that there's no higher priority for me than ensuring that our children will live in a clean, healthy environment.

HYDE: It will still take a few years and more funding to deliver on that priority. District officials here hope to get their first 50 electric buses in the fall of 2025. Meanwhile, Bluebird is still expanding its operation to meet future EV bus needs.

For NPR News, I'm Marlon Hyde in Atlanta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Marlon Hyde