Cars aren’t the only vehicles that run on electricity these days — buses and trucks are also embracing the power of plugging in. A primary motivation for this trend is reducing the pollution caused by diesel. While heavy-duty diesel vehicles make up less than 5 percent of vehicles on the road, they account for more than 20 percent of transportation emissions.
School buses might have the most to gain from going electric. Currently, almost all buses are equipped with diesel engines, and the children who ride on them can be exposed to levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and volatile organic compounds that may damage their developing respiratory systems. Switching to electric power significantly reduces this exposure. While a diesel engine emits 22.2 pounds of carbon per kWh, an electric bus indirectly emits less than 1.2 pounds per kWh.
Today, everything from personal pickup trucks to 18-wheelers has an electric alternative — although not all are commercially available yet. At present, the biggest challenge for plug-in technology is the cost. Most schools are limited in transportation funding and they rarely have the freedom to choose anything but the cheapest buses. While diesel buses tend to cost less than $200,000, electric options often run more than $400,000, not including charging stations. However, many states are offering carbon credits for electric buses and trucks, which leads to impressive savings over the years. For this reason, market growth for new heavy-duty electric vehicles is expected by many to be rapid, especially as charging infrastructure improves around the country.