a row of electric school buses

Electric School Buses

One electric school bus at a time: let's power up Nova Scotia's school transportation 

Nova Scotia has about 77,000 students who ride diesel, gasoline and propane-fueled buses to and from school. Electric school buses have replaced traditional diesel buses and gained popularity worldwide, providing reduced emissions, lower costs and improved student safety and comfort. Learn more about electric school buses and how you can take action alongside the Ecology Action Centre!

If you are interested in launching a campaign in your community or collaborating with us to garner support, please reach out to Abby Lefebvre, Community Engagement Officer with the Ecology Action Centre, at abby.lefebvre@ecologyaction.ca. Together, we can make a positive impact on our children and communities. 

Why Should Your School Make the Switch?

Why Should Your School Make the Switch?

Our current school transportation system relies heavily on diesel-powered buses, which emit harmful pollutants that can have serious negative impacts on human health, particularly for children and those with asthma. Carcinogens and particulate matter in diesel exhaust can hinder learning abilities and cause premature death and decreased lung function. Studies have shown that air pollution inside the bus cabin can be higher than outside, putting children at risk during their daily commute. It's time for a change. We need to transition to electric school buses to ensure a safer and healthier environment for our children and future generations. 

For cleaner air & environment for kids (and everyone)  

Each electric school bus prevents 291 metric tons of climate pollution. Switching to electric school buses will not only lead to zero tailpipe emissions but also protect students’ (and drivers’) lungs by keeping diesel exhaust out of the air inside and outside of the buses. 

To protect our children’s health & well-being 

Children are particularly susceptible to diesel pollutants during their daily commute to school due to their developing respiratory systems and faster breathing rates. Exposure to diesel and gasoline air pollution can also affect a child's ability to learn at school. Electric school buses do not produce these diesel emissions, as they run on electricity.  

To promote environmental & health equity 

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.  

To promote climate change action 

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. 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.  

Less noise, less maintenance 

Electric school buses offer a more comfortable and peaceful ride for students due to their quiet operation, and drivers can better hear everything happening in the bus. With fewer rotating and moving parts, electric buses require less maintenance and have longer lifespans compared to diesel buses. This translates to a competitive cost advantage and improved reliability, making them a smart investment for schools. 

Case Study: Our Neighbours on Prince Edward Island

Case Study: Our Neighbours on Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) is leading the way in Canada when it comes to electrifying school bus fleets. The Public Schools Branch added 35 electric buses in 2021, bringing the total number of electric buses in the province to 82. P.E.I. has solved early-adopter challenges, including route planning, charging and maintenance. A year later, the province is already seeing savings in fuel costs and a reduction in carbon emissions from transportation. With a 25 per cent electric school bus fleet, P.E.I. is well on its way to full electrification in the next decade. The province's success can serve as a model for other Atlantic provinces to pursue electric school buses through joint purchasing rates. By making the switch to electric school buses, provinces can contribute to a cleaner environment and better health for students and drivers. 

How Do Electric Buses Work?

How Do Electric Buses Work?

Electric buses use an electric motor and battery pack instead of a traditional internal combustion engine and can be recharged using a charging station or other power source. They are more efficient, require less maintenance and can store large amounts of power, which can be sold back into the grid or used in emergencies with vehicle-to-grid transfer. 

How far can they go? 

Most electric school buses can travel around 160-250 km on a single charge. The travel range of electric school buses can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the size and capacity of the battery pack, driving conditions, weather and the route the bus is traveling. Buses are typically charged overnight (eight hours), but fast charging (three hours) is also possible with some systems. They can also operate in cold temperatures - Alaska' s first electric school bus is still running at -40! 

How much do they cost? 

Electric buses cost more upfront than diesel buses, but they can be cheaper 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-$30K per year, per bus. Upfront costs are expected to decline as battery technology improves and demand increases. Vehicle-to-grid transfer can add to financial savings by selling excess power back to the grid. Electric buses can benefit utility companies by expanding and stabilizing the grid, providing surplus energy storage and increasing energy demand. 

Current State of Electric School Buses in Nova Scotia

Current State of Electric School Buses in Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia has set ambitious climate and electrification targets for 2030, including a 53 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a requirement for 30 per cent of new light-duty vehicles sold to be zero-emission. While electric school buses could help achieve these goals, there are currently no electric school buses on Nova Scotia's roads and no clear plan for transitioning to them, despite the availability of federal funding programs for their purchase. 

Provincially owned school buses 

There are approximately 1,200 school buses in the province run on diesel, with a small percentage of gasoline and propane-powered buses. Each bus has a lifespan of almost 12 years after which it should be replaced. The Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training (CAMET) supports the Atlantic departments of education, transportation and government services in the joint purchase of school buses. This joint order results in substantial annual savings for all Atlantic provinces. Hon. Becky Druhan, Minister of NS Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Hon. Brian Wong, Minister of NS Department of Advanced Education represent Nova Scotia at CAMET. 

HRCE & CSAP school buses 

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) and Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial (CSAP) follow the provincial government's procurement process when purchasing school buses, which involves issuing a request for proposals (RFP) to bus manufacturers or dealerships. The winning bidder is responsible for manufacturing and delivering the buses to the HRCE, which contracts out student transportation services to private companies. Contracts have been awarded to three service providers since September 2020: Student Transportation of Canada Inc., Southland Transportation Ltd. and National Passenger Services (Canada) (also known as Stock Transportation Ltd.). Almost 500 buses transport over 23,000 students in the Halifax region every day. 

Take Action: Help Us Bring Electric Buses to Nova Scotia's Schools

Take Action: Help Us Bring Electric Buses to Nova Scotia's Schools 

Parents and community members play a crucial role in advocating for electric school buses in Nova Scotia. Raising awareness among other parents and community members about the benefits of electric buses can help build support for the transition. By becoming champions of change and working together, we can create a more sustainable and healthier future for our children and communities. 

Check out our latest video showcasing the positive experience of a bus driver and school kids on an electric school bus! 

If you are interested in launching a campaign in your community or collaborating with us to garner support, please reach out to Abby Lefebvre, Community Engagement Officer with the Ecology Action Centre, at abby.lefebvre@ecologyaction.ca. Together, we can make a positive impact on our children and communities. 

Learn about electric school buses 

Explore our fact sheets, which provide valuable information about electric school buses, including detailed cost-benefit analyses and funding opportunities available in Canada. These resources will equip you with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about the adoption of electric school buses. 

Watch the webinar 

In June of 2022, we conducted a webinar with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick to talk about: 

  • Benefits of converting the school bus fleet to electric 

  • Our research on state of technology and funding opportunities 

  • Challenges of converting the school bus fleet to electric 

Featured speakers in the campaign to electrify Atlantic Canada’s school buses include:  

  • Tomas Murphy, Pupil transportation coordinator for the department of education and early childhood development 

  • Mike Franklin, Logistics Specialist with the PEI Public Schools Branch. 

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

HELD is a vital program of the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE) 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 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, school staff, and nearby communities. 

Get more information on this year's initiative and discover ways to participate here! 

Let's work together to protect our children's health and well-being.