August 19, 2022
Enlarge / The Thomas C2 Jouley is a popular electric school bus.

Thomas Built Buses

Although much of President Joe Biden’s plans to fight climate change have died thanks to obstruction from the Senate, he did manage to squeeze in a few sops to our ever-warming planet. Among those is a $5 billion program to replace dirty diesel school buses with more environmentally friendly options.

It’s called the Clean School Bus Program, and it’s administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which began formally accepting applications this past Friday.

Specifically, the EPA is aiming to replace older (model year 2010 or older) diesel-powered school buses, which must be scrapped in order for a clean bus to be bought to replace them. Oh, and the old bus has to be fully functional—this isn’t intended as a way to make the government pay for broken junk to be replaced with shiny new buses.

But the agency says it will also accept applications from schools looking for zero-emission buses that are prepared to scrap older non-diesel school buses, as well as newer internal combustion buses (which should either be sold, scrapped, or donated).

The EPA isn’t requiring the replacement buses to all be electric, however. While the program will pay for battery-electric buses—such as the Thomas C2 Jouley that was delivered to a school in Alexandria County in Virginia on Friday to mark the start of the program—it will also pay for buses powered by propane or compressed natural gas as long as they’re also model year 2021 or newer and will serve the school district for at least five years, among other requirements.

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The EPA will consider applications to replace up to 25 buses at once and has set aside $250 million for zero-emission buses in 2022 and $250 million for clean school buses, with another $4.5 billion remaining for 2023-2028. Rebates range from $375,000 for a zero-emissions Class 7 or Class 8 bus down to $25,000 for smaller propane buses (classes 3-6).

The application process is open until August 19, and successful applicants should be notified in October that it’s time to order some new buses.