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California Legislature Votes to Accelerate Electric School Bus Transition

Posted by Angelyn Tabalba on Sep 11, 2023

A bill to establish a statewide goal for zero-emission school buses will soon head to the Governor’s desk  

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA Today, the California Senate passed AB 579 to accelerate the adoption of electric school buses and bring the benefits of clean air and cost-savings to communities statewide. The bill, sponsored by Advanced Energy United and CALSTART, represents the latest significant action from the California Legislature to accelerate the transition to clean and safe school transportation. The bill will soon head to Governor Newsom’s desk for signing.  

Brought forward by Assemblymember Phil Ting (District 19), AB 579 sets a statewide deadline requiring all new school buses purchased or leased after 2035 to be zero-emission. The bill extends the lease terms for contracted zero-emission school buses to maximize longer-term savings for schools. Expanding electric school bus adoption over the next decade will substantially reduce maintenance and fuel costs by thousands of dollars annually, freeing up funding to put back into the classroom. 

"Diesel school buses spew pollution into our communities, exposing our children to dangerous toxins. Delaying the transition to electric school buses jeopardizes their health,” said California Assemblyman Phil Ting. “AB 579 will deliver the benefits of clean energy to communities faster. And if signed by the Governor, we can build off the game-changing funding we approved in last year’s budget for electric school buses and take bold steps toward a healthier future.” 

“Today, the California legislature took a major step forward for vehicle electrification. Investing in zero-emissions school buses not only advances our state’s ambitious clean energy targets but also empowers school districts with the opportunity for substantial cost savings,” said Emilie Olson, Senior Policy Principal at Advanced Energy United. “This legislation aligns with the sizeable funding Governor Newsom allocated in the state’s budget for new electric school buses and infrastructure and we look forward to his support once the bill reaches his desk.”  

“This legislation represents a significant stride on the road to a 100% zero-emission future. It provides a pragmatic approach to enhancing the affordability of electric school buses, making the transition more accessible for school districts, and, in turn, providing cleaner air for communities and children,” said Orville Thomas, State Policy Director, CALSTART. “This action, combined with dedicated state grants and funding, will undoubtedly accelerate progress to electrify California’s transportation system.” 

The bill received support from a broad coalition of advocates including California State PTA, public health professionals, regional environmental organizations, auto manufacturers, and EV charging and fleet electrification providers. This diverse range of support underscores the far-reaching consensus around the public benefits of transitioning to zero-emission school buses and a shared commitment to the health of our communities. 

Significant dedicated funding at the state and federal level makes California well-prepared to accelerate these clean transportation solutions. Last year, the legislature approved $1.5 billion in new funding to help schools purchase electric school buses and essential charging infrastructure. The EPA’s Clean School Bus program also invests $5 billion in federal funds via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, some of which has already been awarded to California to support this transition.  

Click here to learn more about Advanced Energy United's work to electrify transportation in the United States.

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Topics: Press Releases, Emilie Olson, Electric school buses, California