a row of electric school buses

Electric School Buses

Let’s power up Nova Scotia’s school transportation

More than 77,000 students ride diesel/gasoline/propane buses daily in Nova Scotia. These gas-powered buses contribute over 23,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions in our province annually. Switching to electric school buses has grown popular across the country to reduce emissions, lower costs and improve student safety and comfort. Learn how the Ecology Action Centre is advocating for this change and how you can take action!

Current state of electric buses in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is one of the only provinces without any electric school buses. Our neighbours are leading the way to electrification with over 107 electric buses on the roads in P.E.I. and over 22 in New Brunswick. Our province is falling behind. 

There are approximately 1,200 school buses in Nova Scotia that run on diesel, with a small percentage of gasoline and propane-powered buses. Each bus has a lifespan of almost 12 years.

Our team is working towards building awareness and informing stakeholders across the province about the importance of making this electrification part of our plan to better the province. We’re encouraging the province and school boards to stop buying diesel, gasoline and propane buses and switch to quieter, cleaner and more cost-effective electric buses. Watch us speak on Global News here.

83% support school bus electrification 

Atlantic Canadians are onboard with this change!  

A 2023 poll from Abacus Data shows that 80 per cent of Atlantic Canadians see links between their health and air pollution from traffic. Furthermore, 83 per cent support accelerating the plan to electrify school buses so that 100 per cent of buses are electric by 2040. 

Why should your school go electric?

The biggest reason why electrification is so important is for health and safety. Numerous harmful pollutants are released into the air from gas- powered buses. These carcinogenic pollutants can have serious negative impacts on human health, particularly for children, elderly and those with asthma. Switching to electric buses means safer conditions for children. Since electric school buses aren’t run by loud and heavy diesel engines, they also decrease noise pollution. 

Low-income communities and visible minority communities, such as Black, Indigenous and Latin, among others, often face higher levels of air pollution. By introducing electric school buses in these historically polluted areas, we can reduce the amount of diesel pollution and improve community health. Moreover, electric school buses can have a positive impact on the grid and promote equitable energy distribution

Case studies in other provinces

a map of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces with cartoon school buses superimposed

Electric school buses have grown in popularity over the last few years across Canada. Just recently we reached over 500 electric school buses on the roads in Canada with plans for many more to be ordered and joining fleets soon. It’s time Nova Scotia catches up!

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island

With 107 electric school buses out of 360 total school buses, P.E.I. has nearly a third of its fleet electrified. P.E.I. has incorporated home chargers for school bus drivers and has demonstrated how electrifying can be done affordably by taking advantage of federal funding. P.E.I.’s charging and maintenance costs show it costs them 75 per cent less to operate an electric bus than a diesel one. 

Learn more about electric school buses in P.E.I.

Quebec

Quebec

Quebec is following the leaps made by P.E.I. and is currently operating 130 electric school buses. Quebec signed a plan with Nova Bus in May 2023 to have 1,229 electric school buses on its roads by 2027. The 2.1-billion-dollar deal is the biggest electric school bus purchase yet in North America.  

Learn more about ESB initiatives in Quebec.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick

In 2018 New Brunswick ordered two buses and spent the next seven years studying them to determine if this was a feasible option for the province, which has long bus routes. The buses they used for this study were older models that only had a range of 100 kilometres per charge – where now buses have 180-250 kilometre range. Following their study (with the lower range bus) they determined that they could comfortably change 60 per cent of their fleet to electric without needing to alter any routes – imagine what that number would be now with the over double range 250 kilometer bus. This study shows Nova Scotia that range and route planning should not be a huge worry as we transition. 

New Brunswick now has over 20 electric school buses. 

Learn more about electric school buses in New Brunswick.

What is the range of an electric school bus?

What is the range of an electric school bus?

Depending on the year, make and model of a bus, its range can vary from 180 kilometres to 250 kilometers per charge. In 2018, when electric school buses were introduced to the Atlantic provinces, range was roughly 100 kilometres per charge. The range has increased and continues to improve.

Read more about range and route planning in English and in French.

How long does it take to charge a bus?

How long does it take to charge a bus? 

Standard chargers take 6-8 hours to recharge a bus to full capacity. Newer fast chargers take 2-3 hours. Buses that run the same routes daily have two long periods of the day – during school hours and overnight – to park and recharge. This makes it easy to use regular chargers, which are cheaper to use.

What are the costs (and cost savings)?

What are the costs (and cost savings)?

As with range, the cost of an electric school bus varies depending on the make, model and year. Currently the cost is $320,000-400,000. While this is just about double that of a diesel bus ($150,000-180,000), current federal funding covers up to 50 per cent of the cost of an electric school bus. 

In addition, electric buses can be cheaper than diesel in the long run due to 80 per cent lower running costs and 60 per cent lower maintenance costs. This can save school districts $20,000-$30,000 per year, per bus. Upfront costs are expected to decline as battery technology improves and demand increases. Excess power stored can also be sold back into the grid, adding to savings. 

What are the health benefits?

What are the health benefits? 

Diesel emissions have been linked with numerous different health effects in children, including asthma and bronchitis. According to a study in 2016, treatment for diesel-induced health effects costs the Canadian health care system approximately $120 billion per year. Health Canada has estimated that air pollution produced by diesel tailpipe emissions contributes to 270 premature deaths per year in Nova Scotia. 

These health effects are significantly worse for youth. Because their lungs and respiratory systems are still developing and because they breathe at a faster rate than adults do, youth are at a higher risk of having short and long-term health problems from exposure to diesel and gas air pollution. 

According to the Canadian Lung Association's polling from 2023, 78 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the health impacts of school bus emissions on children. Support for policy action is high.

What are the benefits for bus drivers?

What are the benefits for bus drivers? 

School bus drivers are important when it comes to operating buses safely. Spending long periods of time on diesel buses twice a day leaves drivers vulnerable to hearing loss, muscle and back pain from bus vibrations and lung and heart impacts from long exposure to pollutants. Without loud noises, unsteady vibrations or gas, electric school buses reduce many health risks for the drivers.

Read more about hearing loss and other health risks.

 

Do the buses really play a jingle?

Do the buses really play a jingle?

They do! Without a diesel-powered engine, the electric school buses are nearly silent. For road safety and to help students know when their bus is arriving, a jingle has been installed into the buses. The default setting is the Montreal Metro sound, but it can be customized.

Can the buses withstand our Maritime weather?

Can the buses withstand our Maritime weather?

Yes. Electric school buses are already being used daily in places where winters are harsh: in Maritime provinces, Quebec and the Prairie provinces. In fact, electric school buses are even running on roads in Alaska in -40 C and they are performing well!  Operating the buses at these temperatures does use more power, but it is very possible, especially with slight route changes.

an electric school bus driving down a snowy, tree-lined road

Why should we prioritize school bus electrification?

Why should we prioritize school bus electrification?

Every school bus that transitions to electric can save around 20 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, and a complete transition to electric buses across Nova Scotia's school bus fleet could eliminate over 23,000 tonnes of emissions each year. Switching to electric is an easy step to reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Nova Scotia hopes to reduce GHG emissions to 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Especially in schools, where we are trying to teach young people about climate change and action, the electrification of school buses is a meaningful action.   

How do I take action?

Let's talk electrifying our kids' school bus routes — Please join our family friendly event to talk with concerned and curious parents, teachers and community members.
When: Thursday, May 28, 6 p.m.–7:30 p.m.
Where: Halifax Central Library, BMO Room
 

I am a parent. What can I do?

I am a parent. What can I do?

  • Speak with teachers, principals and members of your school board and share your concerns!  
  • Send a letter to or call your local MLA.  
  • Reach out to For Our Kids, a group of concerned parents who do work for environmental issues in Canada. 
  • We want to hear from you! Email abby.lefebvre@ecologyaction.ca and let us know how you’d like to get involved or what capacity you’d have to support our campaign. 

I am a teacher. What can I do?

I am a teacher. What can I do?

  • Talk to your students about electric vehicles and protecting/conserving the environment.
  • Book a classroom presentation. The EAC’s community engagement officer, Abby Lefebvre, gives classroom presentations in schools in HRM on this topic (in English or French). Reach out to abby.lefebvre@ecologyaction.ca.
  • Talk to your colleagues and contacts at the school board!  
  • Print posters for your class, or spend time with your students talking about electric school buses and have them design their own posters! 
  • Sign and hang a flyer (English or French) in your classroom. 

I am a student. What can I do?

I am a student. What can I do?

  • Your voice is a powerful tool! Talk to teachers, principals and classmates about electric school buses. 
  • If you attend a school in HRM, ask your teacher if the Ecology Action Centre can come to your class to speak. 
  • With your parent’s permission, reach out to us at abby.lefebvre@ecologyaction.ca to see how else you can get involved. 

I am a concerned citizen. What can I do?

I am a concerned citizen. What can I do?

  • If you have any contacts within Nova Scotia’s school systems, talk to them about electric school buses and ask for their support.
  • Write to or call your MLA.
  • See how else you can get involved with the campaign by emailing abby.lefebvre@ecologyaction.ca

Resources

Resources

Webinar with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick

In this 2022 webinar, we talk about the benefits of converting the school bus fleet to electric, our research on state of technology and funding opportunities and challenges of converting the school bus fleet to electric.

Healthy Environments for Learning Day (HELD) 2023: School Bus Electrification

HELD is a program of the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment that promotes safe and healthy learning environments for children. Previously known as Healthy Schools Day, it occurs annually in April and focuses on raising awareness and inspiring action to prevent environmental health hazards in early learning and school settings.

Children are exposed to harmful diesel emissions while commuting to and from school on diesel-powered buses every day. The Ecology Action Centre signed on to the 2023 HELD campaign, which aimed to replace diesel buses with electric ones nationwide to mitigate the negative impact of diesel exhaust emissions on the health of students, bus drivers and nearby communities. 

Get more information and discover ways to participate here.

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