Funding Available for Illinois Schools to get Electric School Buses

Funding Available for Illinois Schools to get Electric School Buses
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Funding Available for Illinois Schools to get Electric School Buses (Springfield, IL) (via The Center Square) — Illinois wants more schools to apply for electric school bus funding.

Thanks to a huge financial settlement with Volkswagen, Illinois has designated $27 million in funding to help put more electric school buses on the road.

Megha Lakhchaura, state EV officer with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said investing in electric school buses has big payoffs for Illinois.

“Riding in an electric school bus is healthier and a better experience all around for everybody who is directly or remotely involved with them,” she said.

More than 92% of school buses on the road today have diesel engines. Each time they stop and start to pick children up and drop them off, the engines are idling. All that idling causes nitrogen oxides and particulates to spread through residential neighborhoods.

“With electric buses, there are no emissions. There are no gasoline and diesel fumes to smell,” Lakhchaura said.

Electric fleets are healthier for children and drivers, she said. Diesel air pollution is linked to asthma and other health conditions. The American Lung Association has called on Congress to invest $20 billion to transition one-fifth of all diesel school buses to electric to protect children’s health.

Another benefit of electric school buses: they run quiet, reducing noise pollution in communities.

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They are also cheaper to operate because they need much less maintenance, Lakhchaura said.

“They don’t need oil changes, for example,” she said. At the end of the day, there is no trip to the gas station for the drivers. They plug the buses in at the depots, where they charge overnight. They are ready to go the next morning.

In addition to the $27 million in funding from the VW settlement, the federal government has taxpayer funds available from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for school districts and contractors who want to replace aging buses with clean electric buses. In 2022, the EPA announced the Clean School Bus Program with $5 billion in funding to be spent over the next five years. The money is being distributed as grants to school districts that apply for it.

“What we are trying to do is reach out to more school districts in Illinois and encourage them to apply for the federal grants,” Lakhchaura said.

Last year, Illinois secured $48 million in federal taxpayer funded grants and was able to purchase 123 electric buses. The Illinois EPA is hoping to win similar rounds of grant money every year through 2026.

“Very few school districts in Illinois are applying for these federal grants. At the state level, we want to help them do that,” Lakhchaura said.

The Illinois EPA has resources and people who will advise school districts and address any problems they encounter, she said. Many of the new buses will be built in Illinois. Last October, the first U.S.-made LionC zero-emission electric school bus rolled off the line in Joliet. The Joliet factory expects to scale up to an annual production capacity of 20,000 electric buses and trucks.

Funding Available for Illinois Schools to get Electric School Buses


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