The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and Association of School Transportation Services of British Columbia (ASTSBC) have finalized an agreement for the CIB to provide up to $30 million towards its first purchase of up to 280 zero-emission school buses (ZEBs).

ZEBs are more environmentally friendly and economically efficient than traditional diesel buses, and they will help to get the next generation of students to school in a sustainable and safe way.

The CIB’s financing will work in conjunction with funding provided by B.C.’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. All funding will be available for ASTSBC’s members to make ZEB purchases during the upcoming 2021 school bus purchase program.

“I am proud the Canada Infrastructure Bank is partnering with the ASTSBC to provide newer, cleaner, greener school buses for students, parents and educators in British Columbia,” said Ehren Cory, CEO of CIB. “Modernizing school bus fleets supports healthier communities by significantly reducing air pollutants. This is another example of how the CIB is investing in projects which improve the quality of life for Canadians.

ZEBs are expected to have lower maintenance and fueling costs compared to equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting vehicles. A zero-emission electric school bus saves approximately 17 tonnes of GHGs annually compared to a diesel school bus and helps owners lower their carbon footprint.

The electrification of school buses is a key initiative to help the provincial government’s goal of reducing GHG emissions by 40 per cent by 2030. Bus operators will be responsible for procurement, charging infrastructure, and maintenance of vehicles.

The CIB’s investment is another important step towards achieving the Government of Canada’s goal of 5,000 ZEBs.

The CIB’s loan will cover the higher upfront capital costs of ZEBs compared to diesel buses, helping to accelerate the electrification of the school bus fleet. Financial savings are estimated to be substantial, as lifetime operating costs for ZEBs could be as much as 35 per cent lower than diesel buses.

Achieving financial close on this project signifies that all contractual steps have been completed to allow the ASTSBC’s members to access the CIB’s financing. With support from the CIB and the provincial government, the ASTSBC’s members can purchase approximately 280 electric ZEBs and associated charging infrastructure over the next five years.

“British Columbians are among leaders in Canada for zero-emission vehicle adoption, and electrifying school bus fleets is the logical next step as we reduce harmful transportation emissions and combat climate change,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “Cleaner, quieter rides to school for our kids is another win for the environment.

Featured image: B.C.’s inaugural fleet of electric school buses rolled out recently, starting with the Sooke School District on Vancouver Island. Photo credit: Government of B.C.

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