Smiling kids on a clean school bus, they are breathing better air because it’s electric.
Photo Credit:
Adobe Stock
Clean buses for kids

$500 Million Now Available for Clean School Buses; Apply Now!

Steve Hansen
October 27, 2023

The United States’ largest public transportation system is our fleet of around 500,000 school buses. Most of them are diesel-powered, but that will be changing over the next few years. Thanks to $5 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, eligible entities can apply to receive substantial money to cover the cost of new electric and alternative-fuel school buses, along with the charging infrastructure they require.

What Is the Clean School Bus Program?

Run by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean School Bus Program is open for applications now through January 31, 2024. In contrast to the lottery approach of the last $500 million round of funding, the current round of at least $500 million is an application-based system that prioritizes “high-need communities.” The EPA defines high-need communities as rural, Tribal, and low-income school districts.

Two electric school buses

School districts that the EPA identifies as prioritized will receive more funding per bus than non-prioritized districts, but non-prioritized districts will still see substantial funding.

Prioritized school districts can receive the following amounts. (The class designations refer to the vehicle’s GVWR or gross vehicle weight rating. A class 7 bus is a heavy-duty vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs and up, for example.)

  • Electric - Class 7+ : Up to $345,000 per bus plus infrastructure
  • Electric - Class 3-6 : Up to $265,000 per bus plus infrastructure
  • Compressed Natural Gas - Class 7+ : Up to $45,000 per bus
  • Compressed Natural Gas - Class 3-6 : Up to $30,000 per bus
  • Propane - Class 7+: Up to $35,000 per bus
  • Propane - Class 3-6 : Up to $30,000 per bus

Non-prioritized school districts can receive the following amounts:

  • Electric - Class 7+ : Up to $200,000 per bus plus infrastructure
  • Electric - Class 3-6 : Up to $145,000 per bus plus infrastructure
  • Compressed Natural Gas - Class 7+ : Up to $30,000 per bus
  • Compressed Natural Gas - Class 3-6 : Up to $20,000 per bus
  • Propane - Class 7+: Up to $25,000 per bus
  • Propane - Class 3-6 : Up to $20,000 per bus

Up to $20,000 in additional funding is available for ADA-compliant wheelchair lifts. Additional funding is available for shipping costs to non-contiguous U.S. states and territories, as well.

Here are the FAQs for the program. This page has the process information for applying and participating in the program.

Important Dates

  • January 31, 2024, 4 p.m. ET: The application period closes.
  • February 2024: The EPA reviews the rebate applications and begins the selection process.
  • April 2024: The EPA notifies applicants of selection status. Selectees can proceed with purchasing replacement buses and eligible charging infrastructure upon receipt of the official selection notification.
  • April–October 2024: Selectees submit Payment Request Forms with purchase orders demonstrating that new buses and eligible infrastructure have been ordered.
  • April 2026: This is the close of the project. By this time, the selectees will need to have received their buses, installed their charging infrastructure, offloaded their old buses, and finished their program documentation.

Who Is Eligible?

You can get into the particulars for each category here, but as an overview, the following entities are eligible for the Clean School Bus Program:

  • Public school districts and other state or local government entities that are responsible for providing school bus service to at least one public school system.
  • Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Tribally-Controlled Schools.
  • Nonprofit school transportation associations.
  • Eligible contractors who sell, lease, license, or contract for services.

Private schools are not eligible.

Buses Eligible for Replacement

Buses eligible for replacement must:

  • Have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 lbs or more and must be operational at the time the application is submitted.
  • Have all operational parts and be able to start and move in all directions.
  • Be a model year 2010 or older diesel school bus.
  • Be scrapped if the school is selected for funding.

However, if a school can’t meet some of those criteria, they may have a workaround:

“If a fleet has no eligible 2010 or older diesel school buses and is requesting zero-emission school bus replacements, the fleet can either:

  • Scrap 2010 or older non-diesel internal combustion engine buses or
  • Scrap, sell, or donate 2011 or newer diesel or non-diesel internal combustion engine buses.”

Buses Eligible for Purchase

Only new zero-emission electric buses, propane-powered buses, and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses qualify for purchase under the program. Biofuel-powered buses are not eligible, nor are buses that have been converted to battery-electric, propane, or CNG power after their retail sale. The conversion of existing buses to a battery-electric, propane, or CNG drivetrain is not eligible for funding. Only buses of model year 2022 and newer with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 lbs or more are eligible for the program.

Infrastructure Eligible for Purchase

The Clean School Bus Program also accounts for the need for the charging infrastructure that electric buses require. Funding is available, as noted above, for infrastructure from the electrical meter to the charging port of the bus. Program funds cannot be used for any work “in front of” the electrical meter or on the utility side.

Other Program Benefits

Besides their clean-air benefits, battery-electric buses can also act as giant batteries that can supplement the grid when needed. They can be utilized to offset peak demand as well as fully charge overnight when demand is lowest, and electricity rates are cheapest. This concept is called “vehicle to grid” or V2G, and it makes sense when you consider that most school buses are used for only a few hours per day and may be sitting idle, done with their routes, during peak demand.

In fact, it’s already happening, as the linked article points out. It’s possible that schools’ new electric bus fleets could be a revenue stream as well as helping out the often-strained electric grid.

Most recent posts
Save money. save energy.

Related Articles

See all >
Electricity distribution lines, part of America’s energy solution
Charging towards energy freedom

Electricity: The Key to America's Energy Independence

Explore how the transition to electrification is pivotal for achieving U.S. energy independence and security.

Smart Energy covering the history of the energy grid
New Year, New Grid

Smart Energy Podcast Episode 14

On this episode of Smart Energy, we're chatting about making small habit changes in the New Year, the energy grid with Elysia Vannoy, and answering a listener's question about what to do with old holiday lights.

Multi-family electric bills are calculated in NYC
Navigating the billing maze

Understanding Your Multi-Family Electric Bill in New York: A Tenant's Guide

Gain insights into the workings of electric bills in New York's multi-family buildings, including direct metering, master metering, and the implications for tenants.