New York schools switching to zero-emission buses with $100 million in rebates

December 1, 2023

By 2035, all 45,000 school buses in New York must be zero-emission. The state has issued $100 million in incentives and vouchers to help school districts cover transition costs and purchase new buses and charging infrastructure.

The funds are part of the state’s $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act approved by voters in 2022. The bond set aside $500 million to help districts transition to zero-emission buses through the NY School Bus Incentive Program (NYSBIP). This program is part of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which is focused on reducing emissions in the state.

Districts could begin applying for the incentives Nov. 29, and funds will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis through bus dealers. To prevent the quick depletion of funds, districts are capped at six buses or 6% of their fleet that they can purchase through the program in the first two years.

Priority districts, which consist of High Need/Resource Capacity districts and disadvantaged community districts, are qualified for up to 10 buses or 10% of their fleet.

“Bringing manufacturers, school districts and bus operators together to reduce transportation emissions and create cleaner, healthier commutes to school for our students will pay dividends for decades to come,” NYSERDA CEO and President Doreen Harris said in a news release.

Incentive amounts begin at $114,000 per bus for either zero-emission battery electric vehicles (EV) or hydrogen fuel cell EVs, although hydrogen options are not yet available in New York. Additional vouchers could be issued starting at $25,000 to districts to help cover charging infrastructure costs for electric buses. The U.S. Department of Energy reports the average cost of an electric bus is about $400,000.

Priority districts are eligible to receive higher incentives and voucher amounts to meet the NYSERDA’s goal of at least 35% of funds going toward districts in disadvantaged communities.

“Transitioning our transportation sector to zero-emission aligns with New York’s broader environmental goals and our commitment to building healthier, cleaner communities,” Sen. Tim Kennedy said in the release. “We recognize that any change often comes with costs, and this $100 million investment is deliberately designed to make this transition more affordable and accessible to partners throughout our state.”

By 2050, the state aims reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85%, starting with a $1 billion investment in clean transportation programs over the next five years.

Many programs are underway nationwide to make the switch to EVs, including  and creating alternative fuel corridors.

New York is also doubling down on its efforts to build its charging network ahead of an anticipated 3 million electric and hybrid vehicles on the state’s roadways by 2030.

Making the switch

Some school districts have gotten a head start on electrifying their bus fleets through grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Clean School Bus (CSB) Program issues rebates and grants funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to school districts nationwide. The EPA plans to distribute $5 billion over five years to help replace buses with zero- or low-emission models.

Benefits of switching to zero-emission buses include reduced tailpipe pollution, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, lower maintenance costs due to less brake wear, quieter operations and the potential for districts or bus transportation companies to partner with utility companies and sell power to the grid when buses are not in use.

In May, the EPA’s Region 2 announced that $6.625 million in rebates would help six school districts in New York purchase 17 new electric buses through a public-private partnership.

“Beyond the community, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from these bus replacement projects will help to address the outsized role of the transportation sector on climate change,” EPA Regional Administrator Lisa Garcia said in the news release.

In 2022, the EPA issued New York districts several rebates, including $18.5 million for New York City schools to purchase 51 zero-emission buses, through the CSB Program.

Another $69.6 million went to 22 districts to purchase 184 zero-emission buses. One of those districts was the Alexandria Central School District (ACSD), which received a $3.66 million rebate to purchase 12 clean buses as the district transitions to an all-electric fleet over the next seven years.

In a budget update from May, ACSD reported the funds will offset the cost of the bus purchases as well as the electric charging infrastructure to support its fleet. Purchasing the same number of gas-powered buses would have cost the district about twice as much.

The EPA’s 2023 Clean School Bus rebate program is open to applications through Jan. 31. Awardees will be notified in April.

Strategic Partnerships, Inc. can provide information on contract opportunities, plus existing and future government funding. For more information, contact

Photo by Damian Carr on Unsplash

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