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Michigan schools receive $24 million to buy electric buses

school buses
ew funding for electric school buses will bring Michigan to a total of 200 or so electric buses — out of a total bus fleet of 17,000. (Shutterstock)
  • School districts across Michigan will benefit from federal funding to replace aging diesel buses 
  • Diesel buses emit planet-warming greenhouse gasses and harm students’ health
  • More state and federal funding is needed to fully electrify Michigan’s school bus fleet

More than two dozen Michigan school districts will receive a total of $24 million in federal rebates to purchase electric buses, the latest in a nationwide push to eliminate diesel buses that harm the environment and students’ health. 

The funds, the third round in a series of awards to Michigan districts through the Clean School Bus Program, will support the purchase of nearly 100 electric buses across 28 districts.


The switch to electric buses will reduce diesel pollution near schools, which harms student health by slowing lung development and aggravating asthma and heart disease. Diesel vehicles also emit planet-warming greenhouse gasses.

More than 800,000 Michigan students take the bus to school, mostly in diesel-powered vehicles that often don’t comply with modern air quality standards. 


Zachary Kolodin, the state’s chief infrastructure officer, lauded the bus rebates as a pathway toward “a safer and cleaner ride to school for students, while reducing costs for schools, allowing them to put dollars back into the classroom.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that if half of the nation’s buses switched to electric, carbon emissions would decline by 2.1 million tons — the equivalent of taking 456,000 cars off the road.

But that’s a long way off.

In Michigan, the new funding will bring the state’s total to 200 or so electric buses, out of a fleet of 17,000.

Grand Rapids was the biggest winner, with $5.1 million to replace 15 buses. The other 27 districts include Troy School District, which is receiving $400,000 to purchase the district’s first-ever electric buses. 

Fabrice Smieliaskas, founding parent member of dstrict’s sustainability committee, said the switch is environmentally and economically smart because after the initial purchase cost, electric buses are cheaper to maintain and fuel.

“I think soon we’ll see all districts starting to adopt EVs,” Smieliaskas said. “This could be a prime driver of the electrification of vehicles in our state.”

Nationally, the EPA made awards to 530 school districts across almost every state and several Tribes to purchase 3,400 clean buses. The vast majority are electric. 

But supporters of the program also said schools need continued funding in order to make a full transition to zero emission buses.

A single EV schoolbus can cost upwards of $400,000. 


“The entire Clean School Bus Program, the whole $5 billion program nationwide, is not nearly enough,” said Susan Mudd of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based environmental legal advocacy group.

Pontiac is the first big school district in Michigan to go fully electric with the help of federal funding. Its fleet of 40 electric buses will start transporting students next fall. 

But many of the districts receiving rebate funding this year are purchasing only one or two electric buses — often a small fraction of their fleet. And other districts across the state have yet to begin electrifying their buses.

In addition to the federal money, Michigan is chipping in with a $125 million grant program of its own.

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