Pollution Probe, in partnership with Delphi and the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE), and with the generous support of the Trottier Family Foundation, has released a groundbreaking new report that aims to increase the adoption of Electric School Buses (ESBs) in Ontario. The Electric School Bus Strategy for Ontario provides a comprehensive strategy, outlining a broad spectrum of advantages ranging from environmental gains to health improvements, and a first-of-its-kind strategy that helps clearly outline priority initiatives to help expedite ESB adoption in the province.

“ESBs offer a proven solution to address the alarming emissions and health risks associated with diesel buses,” said Christopher Hilkene, CEO of Pollution Probe. “In addition to reducing GHGs, ESBs can contribute to lowering rates of respiratory diseases among children and communities that are often disproportionately affected by transportation-related air pollution. By transitioning to ESBs, Ontario can make significant progress in reducing these numbers, and this shift will benefit children, public health, and the environment.”

Ontario currently has a fleet of more than 20,000 school buses, primarily diesel-powered, that covers 1.8 million kilometres every school day and carries over 833,000 students. The combined emissions from these buses amount to about 307,705 tonnes of GHGs, 203,000 kg of NOx, and 8,100 kg of particulate matter annually. This new report sheds light on the health benefits of adopting ESBs, which include reduced emissions and better air quality, contributing to the well-being of the students they serve, as well as their communities.

Additionally, younger generations struggling with anxiety about climate change can find inspiration in ESBs as an active strategy for mitigating climate change. A diesel school bus emits roughly 82 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) over its 12-year expected lifespan, and up to four times more CO2 per kilometre than conventional passenger vehicles. School bus operators should take advantage of existing federal financial incentives to reduce the total cost of ownership of electric school buses and start electrifying their fleet.

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“Compared to many other medium and heavy duty vehicle applications, zero emissions technology for school buses is both mature and commercially available. Further, the nature and timing of school bus routes are particularly conducive to deployment of electrified vehicles,” said Cara LaRochelle, director of Sustainable Mobility at Delphi. “The School Bus Electrification Strategy for Ontario provides a roadmap to electrifying school bus fleets across the province, including priority actions required by policy makers and regulators, boards of education, school bus fleet owners, local advocacy organizations, and other key stakeholders. The benefits are clear: together we can ensure a healthier future for Ontario children while contributing to meeting Canada’s GHG reduction targets.”

Beyond environmental gains, the report explores the technological advantages of ESBs. It delves into cutting-edge technologies such as Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) and Vehicle-to-Building (V2B) integration, showcasing their relevance in Ontario’s climate.

The strategy presents fine-grained recommendations for expediting the transition to ESBs, such as pilot programs to collect real-world data, guides and best practices to support fleet owners in making the transition, and the development of funding mechanisms to offset incremental capital costs. The report also includes a “Matrix of Actions,” a comprehensive guide that outlines the roles and responsibilities for regulators, educational boards, and various stakeholders. The Matrix provides targeted recommendations ranging from funding mechanisms and pilot programs to workforce training and public messaging to help expedite the transition towards widespread ESB adoption.

Key recommendations include:

  • Funding: Increase the Ministry of Education’s transportation budget to fund ESB pilot programs. Offer low-interest financing targeted at fleet operators and prioritize ESB acquisition in marginalized communities.
  • Policy: Integrate ESBs into provincial policies based on their proven health and economic benefits. Enact policies such as scrappage programs to accelerate the replacement of diesel buses with ESBs.
  • Technical and Workforce Support: Allocate a portion of the Infrastructure Canada Zero Emission Transit Fund (ZETF) to school bus fleets and offer technical assistance. Provide subsidized ESB maintenance certification for mechanics and promote public awareness.
  • Innovative Technologies: Conduct pilot programs focusing on Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) applications. Engage stakeholders to study provincial barriers and regulatory challenges to facilitate V2X pilots.
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“Earlier this year, dozens of organizations across Canada joined CPCHE and Pollution Probe in issuing a Collective Call for Action to accelerate school bus electrification, in light of ever-growing evidence of harm to children’s health and learning potential associated with exposure to diesel emissions and as an attainable step forward on the climate emergency,” said Erica Phipps, executive director at the CPCHE. “This well-researched and pragmatic strategy charts a path for Ontario to take up that challenge and demonstrate a commitment to our children’s health and a sustainable future.”

To read the complete report, visit: https://www.pollutionprobe.org/an-electric-school-bus-strategy-for-ontario/

Featured image credit: Getty Images

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