Electric School Bus Analysis Reveals Four Key Lessons for Electrification

February 1, 2023


February 2, 2023


Kate Mason


[email protected]

Electric School Bus Analysis Reveals Four Key Lessons for Electrification

The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) assessed the technical feasibility of deploying electric school buses at three school districts across the U.S.

Atlanta, GA - In partnership with the World Resources Institute's (WRI) Electric School Bus Initiative, the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) completed free electric school bus (ESB) technical plans for three school districts. CTE assessed the feasibility of ESBs for Yakima School District No.7, located in Yakima, WA, Reading School District, located in Reading, PA, and the Chickasaw Nation, located in Ada, OK. CTE evaluated each districts' operational needs and offered detailed plans outlining the resources and decisions necessary to transition to an all-electric fleet. The plans contained specific replacement timelines, route feasibility percentages, and total cost of ownership estimates, which will help each district decide on a step-by-step process to achieve their electrification goals.CTE and WRI prioritized partnerships with school districts that are located in historically underserved communities - based on air quality, income and racial demographics, or tribal status - with school bus fleets varying operationally, geographically, and in fleet size. The diversity of fleets allowed CTE and WRI to identify challenges and offer findings and solutions as guidance to other school districts interested in electrifying their fleets.Though the selected districts' needs were varied, these four lessons learned were common to each:

  • Most districts do not need shared 50kW chargers: A 50kW DC fast charger shared across two buses is not much faster than two separate 19kW Level 2 AC chargers, but it is more expensive to purchase, install, and manage. Relying on fewer chargers may also require manually moving charging cables or vehicles to ensure adequate charging is provided. Unless a 50kW DC fast charger answers a specific need, the extra benefit may be overshadowed by the additional costs.
  • Level 2 AC chargers work for a high percentage of a district's needs: Most of the bus routes analyzed in this project are well covered by charging with a single 80A 19 kW Level 2 AC charger. There are exceptions, and some fleets have routes that need larger batteries, or high-power mid-day charging. Rural fleets and those primarily using Type A buses are an exception, and will see greater challenges with longer routes, and smaller batteries, which can increase the need for higher power charging. Finding the right balance between infrastructure cost and operating constraints is critical, but most school bus fleets can work with mostly Level 2 charging, and this is likely a good place for many fleets to start.
  • Field trip routes may require additional charging upgrades for districts: Field trip routes are often longer than regular routes. Some of these longer, extracurricular routes are not feasible on a single Level 2 charge with the range limitations of the current ESB technology. These longer routes may require the addition of mid-day charging or DC fast charging, both of which require additional infrastructure, utility investments, and highly skilled technicians to service. This may be especially challenging for rural districts who are more geographically isolated and require longer travel to and from extracurricular events.
  • There is a discrepancy between projected infrastructure costs and a construction estimate: The cost of charging infrastructure varies greatly depending on many factors. CTE provided a high-level cost estimate for each fleet based on assumptions from WRI research and other CTE projects. In CTE's experience, a cost estimate from a design-build firm can be much higher than this early estimate. A school district considering ESBs should engage a design-build firm early in the process to gather more concrete cost information that will help in determining necessary funding. The detailed cost estimate will also help a district plan a phased approach over time that will work with its overall operation and procurement schedule.

As large-scale public funding begins to flow into the emerging electric school bus market, additional partnerships that provide unbiased technical support, modeling, and planning to support school districts across the United States will be critically important. Fleet electrification is complicated and requires a myriad of decisions around route planning, charging strategy, equipment selection, infrastructure development, resource management, and more. Programs like WRI's Electric School Bus Initiative provide education and understanding to all stakeholders, including local district planners, school bus drivers, and the community at large, giving them confidence to make future deployments independently and ensure our nation's transition to electric school buses is successful.If you would like more information, please contact CTE at [email protected] or Kate Mason at (615) 419-5185.


The Center for Transportation and the Environment works to improve the health of our climate and communities by bringing people together to develop and commercialize clean, efficient, and sustainable transportation technologies. CTE collaborates with federal, state, and local governments, fleets, and vehicle technology manufacturers to advance clean, sustainable, innovative transportation and energy technologies. If interested in learning more about CTE, please visit cte.tv.


World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that turns big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity, and human well-being. In partnership with the Bezos Earth Fund, WRI established the Electric School Bus Initiative in late 2020 with the goal of building unstoppable momentum toward electrifying the full U.S. school bus fleet by 2030. This project builds upon and leverages WRI's experience partnering with cities around the world to advance sustainable transportation systems, including extensive engagements focused on transit electrification and working to advance clean power options.

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