If you think you’re seeing a lot of new electric cars, trucks and SUVs on the roads these days, start taking a closer look at the school buses around your town.

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Through a new $5 billion grant from the EPA, thousands of battery-electric school buses will be hitting U.S. roads.

Using funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021, the EPA has expanded the new Clean School Bus (CSB) program. EPA announced Sept. 29, it would nearly double the funding awarded for clean school buses this year following high demand from school districts across the United States that applied for the 2022 CSB rebates.

The program will now offer up to $5 billion during the next five years (U.S. government fiscal years 2022-2026) to replace existing ICE-powered school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models. 

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 authorizes EPA to offer rebates to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission (ZE) models to reduce harmful emissions from older, dirtier buses,” states a release from the EPA.  

The 2022 rebate application period closed in August with requests from school districts in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and federally recognized Tribes. All are seeking to purchase electric and low-emission school buses. 

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Lion Electric delivered its first electric school buses purchase using the Clean School Bus program funding.

In total, the EPA received about 2,000 applications requesting nearly $4 billion to replace more than 12,000 buses. The 2022 rebate program will fund approximately 2,500 of those requests. The rest will be considered over the remaining four years of the program.

The awards announced for 2022 nearly doubled the $500 million originally allocated, raising the amount to $913 million due to broad interest in the program. Vouchers awarded in this initial round of EPA funding are conditional on buses being ordered from October 2022 to April 2023, and charging infrastructure being installed and vehicles delivered by October 2024.

First EV bus delivered

The Lion Electric Co.  is a Quebec-based manufacturer of all-electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. This week, the company announced that it has completed delivery of its first LionC zero-emission school bus funded by the CSB program. The bus was delivered to Mount Desert Island Regional School System in Bar Harbor, Maine. The bus was manufactured at Lion’s new factory in Joliet, Illinois. The factory there is initially focused exclusively on the production of all-electric school buses that qualify for these EPA grants. 

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The Clean School Bus program is offering $5 billion in funding and already got $4 billion worth of applications.

When it reaches its capacity, Lion expects this facility will be able to produce up to 20,000 medium- and heavy-duty vehicles annually. EV bus deliveries have also been completed to Wabaunsee County Schools in Kansas and Big Valley Joint Unified School District in Northern California.

“It is very exciting for us to be delivering our first ‘made in America’ LionC funded by a grant under the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program,” said Nate Baguio, Senior Vice President of Commercial Development at Lion Electric. “We are pleased to be supporting Mount Desert, in both their adoption of zero-emission school buses and their commitment to the health of the students and the community.”

Touching all the bases

In addition to manufacturing buses and trucks, Lion offers charging infrastructure with LionEnergy, proprietary EV telematics with LionBeat, financing assistance with LionCapital Solutions, driver/maintenance/safety training from Lion’s BrightSquad and funding support assistance provided by the LionGrants team. 

To date, Lion states that the company has deployed over 800 all-electric medium and heavy-duty vehicles which have covered more than 10 million miles in real world conditions. According to the company, each Lion all-electric bus put into operation can eliminate up to 23 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, while preventing human exposure to hazardous particulate emissions from diesel engines.