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Electrifying School Transportation

School districts around the country are adopting electric school buses because of their proven performance, cost savings and health benefits. But understanding what kind of buses and charging infrastructure schools need can be confusing. As part of our Electric Vehicle (EV) Evolution Initiative, TVA helps school districts make the switch to electric school buses which benefits our communities and the grid. By providing communities with expert support and guidance, TVA can help ensure fleet electrification is strategic and cost-effective.

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Available Funding

$1 M+ fuel cost savings per year illustration

If a large metropolitan school district in our region electrified half of its 600+ school bus fleet, it would save more than $1.2 million in fuel costs per year.1

Electric school buses offer significant savings over their lifetime, and federal funding is available to help communities with the initial cost. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus Program is providing $5 billion in funding to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models. Additionally, government departments are frequently announcing new funding opportunities, and the experts at TVA can help school districts identify opportunities and prepare applications.

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How TVA Supports School Districts

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Subject Matter Expertise

Subject matter expertise on electric school buses, charging infrastructure and electric rates

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Funding Guidance

Guidance on relevant federal grant and rebate opportunities

Application Assistance Icon

Application Assistance

Assistance with funding application preparation

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Industry Connections

Connections to industry resources and peers

Why Electric School Buses Get an A+

Electric school buses provide numerous benefits to school districts, communities, drivers, and students, including:

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Cost Savings

Electric school buses offer significant savings over the vehicle’s lifetime. They have lower operating costs due to cheaper electricity compared to the cost of diesel fuel, fewer maintenance requirements (no oil changes and fewer moving parts), as well as potential savings from government incentives and grants. Ultimately, school districts in the region that are deploying electric school buses are seeing cost savings of approximately $4,0002 on fuel and $4,4003 in maintenance per bus each year.

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Enhanced Safety

Electric school buses are designed with lower centers of gravity due to the placement of heavy battery packs, reducing the risk of rollovers and providing greater stability on the road. Since electric school buses have minimal engine noise compared to diesel, electric school bus drivers report an improved ability to focus on the road. Lastly, studies found that vehicles with fuel-burning engines are 29 times more likely to catch fire than electric vehicles, making electric a safer choice.4

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Health Benefits

Exposure to diesel exhaust emissions have been linked to respiratory illnesses, asthma and reduced student attendance. By eliminating these emissions, electric school buses reduce health impacts to students and staff, subsequently lowering healthcare costs for communities.

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Noise Reduction

Electric school buses are quieter than diesel buses, reducing noise pollution in neighborhoods and around schools. This can improve the overall quality of life for residents and create a more favorable learning environment for students.

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Energy Dependence

Electric school buses use locally produced electricity, keeping more money in the region. Further, electric school buses benefit from TVA’s clean energy mix, which is nearly 60% carbon-free and includes nuclear, hydro and solar power generated across the region. By reducing dependence on fossil fuels, electric school buses enhance energy security while supporting local jobs.

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Extra Credit: Energy Storage

On average, school buses are parked for up to 18 hours a day during the school year and for nearly three months over the summer. Why not give them another assignment for extra credit? When they aren’t being used to transport students, electric school buses could be used as mini, mobile sources of power. Experts are exploring the interaction of electric vehicles and the grid, also known as vehicle-grid integration. In the most advanced application, vehicle-to-grid electricity in the bus batteries can be delivered back to the grid during peak times, reducing stress on the grid. This could allow more renewable energy sources to be added to the grid, and potentially provide backup power to schools and communities in the event of power outages.


Case Study: Bledsoe County

Bledsoe County Electric School Bus

Bledsoe County School District supports a rural, designated distressed5 county located next door to Fall Creek Falls State Park, which features the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. With its 2,000 students living across the county, which is characterized by rolling hills and steep inclines, Bledsoe County School District expected difficulties when adding electric school buses to its fleet. The longest daily route runs 110 miles up and down the Cumberland Plateau, which adds over 2,000 feet of elevation gain per day. 

The electric school buses have proven to handle the county’s challenging geography with relative ease. The buses can run both daily routes on a single charge. Thanks to the DC Fast Charging infrastructure installed by Bledsoe County School District, each bus reaches a complete charge between their morning and afternoon runs, taking only two hours per bus. The drivers take the buses home with them in the evening with enough charge to run their morning routes.

Bledsoe County Schools turned to their Local Power Company, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) and TVA for new utility service and technical assistance, including rate analysis and recommended charging strategies.

Charging strategies are dependent on a variety of factors, such as route, charging infrastructure and weather. The EV Evolution Initiative is here to support school districts in determining the right approach for their unique situation.

For a more in-depth look at one school district’s electric school bus journey, download this case study about the first electric school bus in Tennessee!

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Get Started Electrifying Your Fleet

If you’re interested in learning more about electric school buses for your community, get in touch with TVA’s electric school bus experts to explore the possibility of electrifying your future.

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  1. Assumes that school buses travel an average of 12,000 miles each per year (see U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC). Assumes that electric buses operate at 1.5 kWh/mi bus efficiency and diesel buses operate at 7.51mi/g (see the DOE’s Average Annual Fuel Use by Vehicle Type and the Fuel Conversion Factors to Gasoline Gallon Equivalents). Cost estimates assume $3.94/gallon diesel and $0.13/kWh electricity, based on national averages. See DOE’s Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report.
  2. Environmental Protection Agency (2023, October 4). What If Electric School Buses Could be Used to Supply Power When Off Duty? Accessed May 8, 2024.
  3. Environmental Protection Agency (2023, July 26). For a Clean, Safe Ride to School, Electric Buses Get Straight A’s. Propane? Needs Improvement. Accessed May 9, 2024.
  4. Electric School Bus Initiative (2023, September 6). All About Electric School Bus Battery Safety. Accessed May 8, 2024.
  5. Tennessee State Government (2024). Distressed Counties. Accessed May 20, 2024.