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Electric Buses: Paving the Way Forward

TRC is helping our partners in the Midwest launch electric bus programs, in territories where diesel buses have long been the equipment of choice. We’re working with utilities, school districts and transit authorities to unlock the benefits of switching from fossil fuel models to next-generation emissions-free buses, with affordability as a top priority.

TRC is supporting utilities with long-term planning for school and municipal bus electrification.

TRC supports clients with energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction goals, including electric vehicle program development. In Kansas and Missouri, we’re partnering with the local utility Evergy to promote the adoption of clean school buses, and in Tennessee, we partnered with a regional utility to support the electrification of municipal transit buses for a large city.

Both programs have helped bring the benefits of electric buses to local communities – including improved air quality, lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduced noise pollution and reduced operating costs. Compared to their traditional diesel counterparts, electric buses offer numerous improvements:

  • Helping to combat climate change by significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions;
  • Improving public health by reducing pollutants that affect both riders and communities served by buses;
  • Reducing maintenance and fuel costs over the lifetime of the equipment.

While the benefits of electric bus fleets are proven, some challenges remain to achieving widespread implementation, and TRC is working with our utility partners to overcome these barriers.

The Challenge: Limited Budgets

School districts, municipal transit authorities and other agencies often face limited budgets in serving their constituents, and this can be a barrier to purchasing electric buses. School superintendents and city transit managers, for example, make decisions on a daily basis for hundreds of students and thousands of public transit riders, with cost-effectiveness often the top priority.

Electric buses are drawing interest from managers of school and public transit fleets, because of proven environmental, cost and safety benefits – but the cost can be 2x compared to traditional diesel buses. Few school districts or municipalities can pay for this added cost, without access to funding to close the gap.

The Midwest geography presents additional challenges to electric bus adoption, with a higher percentage of rural areas, longer driving distances and more extreme winter weather fluctuations, when compared to coastal cities. These factors may contribute to local skepticism regarding electric buses and electric vehicles in general. And for a large fleet of buses being converted from diesel to electric, there is the additional challenge of electric load management and infrastructure planning. Stakeholders must ensure that the bus routes and the local grid have enough power and charging stations to support a growing number of all-electric buses in coming years.

The Solution: Planning, Education and Funding

Government funding programs are currently being offered to incentivize the adoption of electric buses – and TRC is working with our utility clients to connect this vital funding to school districts. Programs like the EPA Clean School Bus Rebate Program offer incentives to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission (ZE) models to reduce harmful emissions from older buses. This program can bring the cost of a new electric bus on par to a diesel bus.

Education and awareness are key. TRC and our industry partners are working to educate school districts in Kansas and Missouri about these available incentive programs and connect them to funding entities. We are building relationships with school superintendents and Directors of Transportation, hearing about their obstacles, and helping them make decisions, by calculating the upfront costs and long-term benefits of transitioning all or part of their bus fleets from diesel to all-electric. We’re putting skeptics in touch with early-adopter schools that have made the switch to clean buses, establishing peer-to-peer information sharing.

For municipal bus fleets, the approach is similar: connecting the transit authority to available funding and analyzing the costs, benefits, and infrastructure needs of replacing diesel buses with electric buses. TRC has worked with our utility partner in Tennessee to provide electrification incentives that helped a city’s transit authority replace a portion of their diesel bus fleet with electric buses. For large capital projects like this, proper planning is key to ensure the program stays within budget and provides the expected environmental and community benefits.

The Results: Cost Savings, Emissions Reductions and More

TRC is proud to have helped our utility partners in the Midwest successfully plan and launch multiple electric bus incentive programs that resulted in conversion of diesel equipment to zero-emission clean buses.

For the Evergy school bus electrification program in Kansas and Missouri, we created an outreach and educational plan that connected school districts to EPA funding. As a result, 11 school districts have been awarded EPA funding since 2021, and 10 clean electric buses are in service. We’ve helped participating schools reduce their operating costs by 60%, saving an average of $5,000 annual savings per bus.  School superintendents are very satisfied with the new clean buses, reporting a quieter, safer and smoother ride for the children. Maintenance of the equipment is easier, with no oil, no transmission and no exhaust system to upkeep.

For the municipal transit authority in Tennessee, we partnered with the local utility to evaluate an incentive program that would add electric buses to the city’s existing fleet, in support of the city’s goal to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. These energy evaluations demonstrated the potential impact of going electric, and as a result, the transit authority purchased six new electric buses and charging stations. Each diesel bus replaced is estimated to save the city up to $50,000 a year by eliminating the need to buy fuel, change oil, or incur diesel engine maintenance. Based on these results, the city plans to expand their EV bus fleet to 25 buses in the near future.

Electric companies are key partners for school districts as they plan to electrify their school bus fleets. Our outreach strategy has enabled us to establish connections with these districts, ensuring we offer the necessary support for the successful deployment of zero-emission electric school buses.

Julie Dietrich

Manager of Fleet Electrification, Evergy

By planning, designing, and implementing decarbonization and electrification programs across the U.S., TRC is helping our clients achieve a clean and equitable energy future for the communities they serve.

For more information, contact us at

Reighan Childers, Lauren Hampton, Ashley Mitchell, and Josh Stoneman contributed to this article.

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