Electric School Bus vs. Diesel Showdown: Steering the Future of School Transportation

Right now, we’re at a really interesting crossroads in how we think about getting our kids to school. Should we use electric school buses or stick with the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) buses? This choice is about considering what each school bus option means for our future — thinking about things like meeting new emissions requirements, potential money savings and ensuring we’re creating a cleaner environment for everyone. 

As we dive into the details of electric and ICE school buses out there, we’re looking for the benefits that’ll help us move school transportation into a more eco-friendly and efficient direction.

Navigating the Challenges and Goals of Modern School Buses

For anyone involved with getting kids to and from school safely, there are a few things to consider: Vehicle performance, cost implications and whether the technology is good for our planet. That’s where electric school buses are starting to make a real splash. 

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reported, “NREL has published a new report showing that the average fuel economy of fuel cell electric buses from three fleets is approximately 6 miles per diesel gallon equivalent or DGE [dynamic gain equalization], 1.4 times higher than conventional diesel buses (about 4.2 miles per DGE) from one fleet and up to 1.9 times higher than compressed natural gas buses (about 3.3 miles per DGE) in another fleet.”

And there’s more to the story, especially when looking at costs over the school bus’s lifetime. Electric buses might cost more upfront, but they’re cheaper to run and maintain than their diesel counterparts. According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), “Diesel school buses can drive at 8.20 miles per gallon, whereas an electric school bus drives at 20.87 miles per diesel gallon equivalent — making them almost 60% more energy efficient.”

As for maintenance savings, EDF also noted that having fewer rotating and moving parts makes the electric school bus less costly in the long run. For school districts trying to work within their budgets and keep their fleets up-to-date, these kinds of savings can really make a difference.

The Rise of the Electric School Bus

Electric school bus fleet implementation is on the rise, driven by their environmental advantages and the potential for significant reductions in the total cost of ownership. The market for electric school buses has expanded, offering a range of models designed to meet diverse operational needs. According to the Electric School Bus Initiative, as of February 2024, more than 4,000 electric school buses were delivered or in operation across the United States, with states like California leading the charge through ambitious electrification initiatives based on the World Resources Institute.

The environmental benefits of transitioning to electric school buses are substantial. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that electric vehicles, including buses, emit zero tailpipe emissions, contributing to improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. 

electric vs. diesel school bus

The Persistent Value of Diesel School Buses

Despite the growing interest in electric alternatives, diesel school buses continue to play a pivotal role in student transportation. Known for their durability and reliability, diesel buses have served school districts faithfully for decades. 

Diesel engines are celebrated for their robustness, as they can handle high mileage with less wear and tear than other engine types. This durability translates into longer service life, making diesel buses a reliable backbone for school fleets across varied geographic and climatic conditions. Their widespread use and established maintenance frameworks also mean that parts and services are readily available, which can minimize downtime and allow buses to spend more time on the road.

From an immediate financial perspective, diesel buses present a compelling case, especially for districts facing tight budget constraints. The upfront cost of a diesel school bus is generally lower than that of an electric counterpart, making it an accessible option for many schools. Furthermore, the market for used diesel school buses offers an additional layer of budget-friendly choices for districts looking to expand or renew their fleets without the hefty price tag of new vehicles. These used buses can provide considerable service life at a fraction of the cost, offering a pragmatic solution for schools that need reliable transportation but must carefully manage their expenditures.

The appeal of diesel buses extends beyond their financial benefits. For many school districts, infrastructure challenges and the need for substantial upfront investment in charging stations and related equipment can hinder the transition to electric buses. In such scenarios, diesel buses remain attractive, offering a tried-and-tested solution that can be implemented immediately without the logistical and financial hurdles associated with electric vehicle adoption.

Electric vs. Diesel: A Comparative Analysis

When comparing electric and diesel school buses, it’s important to consider several factors, including safety, operational costs and environmental impact.

Safety: Electric buses offer the advantage of a lower center of gravity, which may improve stability and safety. However, electric and diesel buses meet rigorous safety standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), ensuring all school buses are safe for student transportation.

Operational Costs: Electric school buses have been shown to offer lower operational costs over their lifespan. The Electric School Bus Initiative reports that “Over time, the savings electric school buses offer on operational expenses like fueling and maintenance add up and can offset the upfront price of the bus. In fact, the real lifetime cost of electric school buses can be much closer to that of their diesel-burning counterparts.”

Environmental Impact: Electric school buses represent a clear advantage for the environment. Earth 911 highlights that choosing an electric bus over a diesel bus can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 54,000 pounds annually. This significant reduction in emissions contributes to cleaner air and a healthier environment for communities.

Health Advantage: The shift from diesel to electric school buses presents a strong argument for protecting public health. Children who are regularly exposed to bus exhaust face a higher risk of developing respiratory conditions and experiencing aggravated asthma symptoms. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “The global disease burden resulting from exposure to traffic emissions is a growing worldwide public health threat. Children — from infancy to the age of 14 — are especially susceptible to the health effects of traffic emissions due to their rapidly developing immune, neurologic and lung systems and high ventilation rates.”

Given that children’s respiratory systems are developing and they breathe more air relative to their body weight than adults, they are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution. Additionally, electric buses offer the advantage of operating more quietly than those with combustion engines, benefiting not just the environment but also the health of both passengers and drivers

Choosing between electric and ICE school buses involves weighing the immediate costs against the long-term benefits and impacts. While diesel buses offer a lower upfront cost and proven reliability, electric buses substantially save operational costs and provide environmental benefits over time. For school districts, especially in regions like Oregon, where greener transportation options are actively pursued, the investment in electric buses could be seen as a commitment to sustainability and fiscal responsibility in the long run.

electric school bus

Making the Case for Electric School Buses in Decision-Making

For transportation directors, the decision-making process surrounding the purchase of school buses involves a meticulous evaluation of options, balancing the benefits of electric school buses against the pragmatic appeal of used diesel buses. This decision is not solely based on the vehicles’ specifications but extends to considerations of dealer reputation, service quality and the support network available post-purchase.

The reputation of the bus dealer plays a crucial role in this decision-making process. Schetky Bus & Van Sales, a dealer known for almost 80 years of honesty, integrity and after-sales support, can be a valuable partner to a school district. We offer bus driver training courses throughout the nation. We also offer services for wheelchair lift repairs and installations, wheelchair restraint track and belt installations, DOT inspections, Oregon School Bus Annuals, electrical repairs and troubleshooting. If your vehicle has issues, our trained vehicle experts can work with you to get your bus back on the road.

Schetky Bus & Van Sales’ Warranty

Our warranty and nationwide delivery and support services ensure that no matter where your district is located, you can count on us to provide you with the reliable transportation solutions you need. With Schetky Bus & Van Sales, you’re not just purchasing a bus; you’re gaining a partner dedicated to the safety and efficiency of your school’s transportation system. Our comprehensive approach to sales and service means that from the moment you choose us, through every mile your buses travel, we’re with you every step of the way, ensuring your vehicles remain safe, compliant and ready to serve your community.

Transportation directors seek dealers who offer competitive pricing and stand behind their products with comprehensive service agreements and responsive support teams. The quality of after-sales service, including the availability of spare parts and the dealer’s ability to provide timely maintenance and repairs, directly impacts the operational efficiency of the school’s transportation service.

Choose Schetky School Buses to Bring Your Children to School

Schetky Bus & Van Sales has quality new and used school buses for sale in Oregon and Washington. Our vehicles are available in a variety of sizes. From multi-function new and used activity buses to Type A and Type C school buses, we have everything you need to safely transport passengers to and from school. We have both new, used, leasing and financing options.

Quality And Maintenance

Being in the business for over 75 years, we’ve gained much experience in delivering safety and comfort to all our customers. Hence, all our new and used school buses for sale are guaranteed to be delivered complete with all your needs and preferences met. Our school buses also come fully equipped with other features and conveniences like wheelchair lifts and air conditioning units.

School Bus Options

We also have many model years and colors to choose from. Schetky caters to various travel and transportation needs, so customers are never dissatisfied. If you cannot identify which school bus would best suit your needs, you can drop by our contact us page, and we’d be happy to assist you on this matter. We take pride in our products and service, so rest assured that you are getting your money’s worth out of any of your choices.

Contact Schetky Bus & Van Sales now to find the perfect transportation solution for your district, particularly if you’re located in Oregon. Let’s ensure our children have the best start and finish to their daily school day.