Fort Worth ISD begins transition to electric school buses through $6M federal grant
Fort Worth ISD’s school buses are going green — though the familiar yellow paint color will remain the same.
The district will receive $6.17 million in federal grant funding to purchase 15 electric, or clean, school buses, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Jan. 10. Fort Worth is among 18 Texas school districts, including Austin and San Antonio, that received more than $26 million in grants to purchase 165 electric school buses. This is the EPA’s second round of funding for the clean school bus initiative.
District spokesperson Cesar Padilla said Fort Worth ISD is thrilled to receive the award and serve its students in an environmentally sustainable way.
“This grant award will allow us to enhance our fleet as we investigate a transition to low- and zero-emission vehicles,” Padilla said by email. “Without receipt of these funds, electric school buses would not be possible for FWISD as an electric school bus is almost four times the cost of a bus fueled by diesel.”
Funding comes from the 2021 federal infrastructure law, which gave the EPA $5 billion to help districts replace traditional school buses with models that release little to no greenhouse gas emissions. School buses travel more than 4 billion miles each year, according to the EPA.
If half of those buses switched from diesel to electric, federal officials estimate, 2.1 million tons of carbon dioxide would not be released into the atmosphere each year. A typical passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Luke Metzger, executive director of the environmental advocacy and research group Environment Texas, said the new buses will protect student health and save districts money in fuel and maintenance costs. Air pollution from older diesel engines has been linked to childhood asthma and other health conditions, according to the EPA.
“The number of grant applications for this program shows us that schools are ready to go electric — they just need the resources to get there,” Metzger said in a statement.
Fort Worth ISD was not selected for the first round of funding in 2022, when qualified districts like Dallas and Houston were chosen through a lottery system. That program allowed districts to receive rebates from the EPA after submitting proof that they ordered electric buses.
This time around, the EPA gave priority to applications from districts that are high-need, in rural areas, funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or receive basic support payments for children who reside on Indigenous land.
Since nearly 85% of Fort Worth ISD students come from low-income families, the EPA classified the district as high-need. Three school districts in northern Texas primarily serving rural communities — the Kopperl, Sam Rayburn and Muenster ISDs — will also receive clean bus funding.
While there are benefits to electric buses, Fort Worth ISD is still facing several obstacles to making a full transition to an electric fleet, Padilla said. He cited factors such as cost, charging infrastructure, battery range and technician training.
“Adding the vehicles to our fleet will provide immediate benefit while also allowing the district to evaluate the feasibility of a complete transition,” Padilla said.
Regional EPA staff will work with grant recipients to finalize project plans, assist with necessary technical assistance and purchase the new buses and chargers. As grants are finalized, the total amount awarded and number of buses could be adjusted, according to the EPA announcement.
Districts not selected for electric bus funding — or those that did not apply — will have another chance to receive federal funds. The EPA will accept applications for its clean school bus rebate program through Jan. 31.
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at email@example.com.
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