podcast

Electric School Buses: Grant Funding

August 17, 2023

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Albert and Andy from the Blue Bird EV team sit down with Lauren, Blue Bird Grants Manager, to discuss state and federal funding for electric school buses and infrastructure, as well as available resources on grant funding and general electric bus topics.

Transcript:

00:00:04:18 – 00:00:18:11
Speaker 1
Hello. Welcome to Bird’s Eye View. In this series, we’ll discuss everything bus related from the perspective of an industry leading school bus manufacturer. I’m Lauren Beaty, grants manager at Bluebird.

00:00:18:12 – 00:00:22:04
Speaker 2
And I’m Albert Burleigh Bluebirds executive director of EV business development.

00:00:22:09 – 00:00:28:20
Speaker 1
In this season, we’ll discuss how to electrify your school bus fleet. So let’s jump on the bus.

00:00:28:22 – 00:00:39:06
Speaker 2
Let’s get started.

00:00:39:07 – 00:00:49:22
Speaker 2
And on this episode, we have a guest host today, Andy Moore, who’s back joining us so that we can put Lauren Beatty, our grants manager, on the hot seat, because today’s topic is grant funding.

00:00:50:00 – 00:00:54:12
Speaker 3
Yeah, it’s great to be back. Albert and Lauren, you’re going to tell us how to put the fund into funding.

00:00:54:12 – 00:00:56:04
Speaker 1
That is exactly right, Andy.

00:00:56:05 – 00:01:08:15
Speaker 3
So as the grants manager, I’m sure you get a lot of emails and calls from customers who are hungry for EV school busses. How do you help them? access some of that grant funding?

00:01:08:17 – 00:01:37:11
Speaker 1
Okay, so there are several resources for people who are looking for grants. One of them is the Alternative fuels database, which breaks down the amount of grants by fuel type and by state. So that’s one of the go to resources that I point out. you mentioned on an earlier episode that, World Resources Institute, that’s another just for general knowledge about, about funding and electric busses in general.

00:01:37:13 – 00:01:48:02
Speaker 1
And then, of course, there’s a Bluebird team. we have a lot of experts in the field, and we’re always looking for grants and ways to help people fund, their electric busses.

00:01:48:04 – 00:01:54:16
Speaker 2
So if someone calls you from, let’s say, Wisconsin and says, hey, are there any grants available in Wisconsin? how do you help them.

00:01:54:18 – 00:02:19:13
Speaker 1
Say it’s too cold? No, I’m just kidding. we have, again, I would look at the alternative Fuels data center, but with the clean school bus funding, which we referenced earlier. that funding is nationwide. So now there are opportunities for any state in the United States to apply for funding. Right now, we’re waiting for that, those funding programs to become available.

00:02:19:15 – 00:02:26:04
Speaker 1
we’ve heard that the first round or the first round of 2023 would be announced in late spring.

00:02:26:06 – 00:02:35:10
Speaker 3
Wow. A federal grant program. That sounds like a really difficult and lengthy process. How hard is it, really to apply for one of these grants?

00:02:35:12 – 00:02:59:13
Speaker 1
Actually, the EPA’s, clean school bus, clean school bus funding program is not a difficult, application. It’s more of a form. the most difficult thing about it, as Albert knows, is trying to get school districts to pick out their replacement busses and just getting all of the details, the titles and registrations for those busses.

00:02:59:15 – 00:03:08:18
Speaker 1
So we worked really hard this summer to get a lot of applicants for that. And, I think that will be very strong going into the second round.

00:03:08:20 – 00:03:15:05
Speaker 2
So they typically have to replace a bus if they want to get a new bus find it. Is that pretty common for most of the grants?

00:03:15:07 – 00:03:38:14
Speaker 1
Yes, it is pretty common. And it is going to be standard for this program. But kind of the silver lining of this program is that your busses don’t your new busses don’t have to be delivered until October of 2024. which gives school districts kind of an overlap to use to continue to use their old bus and get used to the new bus at the same time.

00:03:38:16 – 00:03:44:14
Speaker 1
So yes, you do have to scrap your bus, but you have an adjustment period, I guess you could say.

00:03:44:16 – 00:03:58:23
Speaker 3
Wow. So this EPA clean school bus program has seen a historic investment in the future of our school children and, school transportation. What makes this grant program different from some of the other grant programs?

00:03:59:05 – 00:04:28:12
Speaker 1
That’s a good question. this program was specifically targeted for to rural and, high poverty areas. they said those were defined by the EPA, but mostly trying to bring busses, clean school busses to areas that might not normally have the resources to, to purchase them. as we know, an electric school bus is very expensive and we’re trying to level the playing field, so to speak.

00:04:28:14 – 00:04:33:17
Speaker 3
Well, in some of these districts, our you may know how old are some of these busses that that they’re still driving there.

00:04:33:18 – 00:04:53:08
Speaker 2
Yeah, it’s a good question. you know, for some of these, especially some of the communities that are getting this funding, there could be well over 20 years old in some cases. So they do have some very old, much dirtier busses. Right. Emissions were much different back then. So the busses are taken off the road, are obviously a lot cleaner than a lot dirtier than a zero emission school bus.

00:04:53:08 – 00:05:02:08
Speaker 2
So it’s great they’re targeting those areas and those fleets that have some of the dirtiest busses that are really kind of impacting kids health the most.

00:05:02:10 – 00:05:22:19
Speaker 1
And, you know, I was making a joke earlier with Albert about Wisconsin, but we do have electric busses in a variety of different climates. So just because, a state is located in a very cold or a very hot or mountainous territory, we can still like electric busses, can still perform very well in those areas. And Albert could talk a little bit.

00:05:22:19 – 00:05:39:16
Speaker 2
Yeah, it’s a good point. Yeah. So yeah, some schools wonder will it work well in my area. And it works well in really any conditions because we have so many busses running across the U.S. and Canada in those various conditions. So yeah, that’s one thing that we try to educate quickly is that, yeah, the busses will work great in your area.

00:05:39:18 – 00:05:45:00
Speaker 2
Now we let’s just focus on the funding to allow you to get some busses in your fleet as well.

00:05:45:00 – 00:05:49:07
Speaker 3
So you say running around all over the country. How many states are we talking about here?

00:05:49:09 – 00:05:57:22
Speaker 2
They grew up to 36 states and four Canadian provinces. So you get places like, you know, Arizona. So I guess 120 degrees in some places. And you have it’s.

00:05:57:22 – 00:05:58:14
Speaker 3
A dry heat.

00:05:58:14 – 00:06:17:07
Speaker 2
It’s a dry heat. Exactly. It’s it’s, you barely get in the shade is very cool after that. So good point, Andy. but you also very cold climate. So we have a lot of busses running in Quebec. We have some in, and upstate New York. We have them really in places like Utah. So a lot of places that have cold weather conditions.

00:06:17:09 – 00:06:21:15
Speaker 2
So yeah, they’re operating all over the place in various conditions.

00:06:21:17 – 00:06:36:06
Speaker 3
So we’ve talked a lot about funding for the bus, but as you know, with an electric bus, how you fuel it or charge it is a completely different way than you do on a traditional powertrain. Is there funding available for that infrastructure.

00:06:36:07 – 00:07:02:12
Speaker 1
With the Clean School bus program? Yes. if you applied for an EV, you automatically and we’re accepted, you, automatically receive $20,000 per bus. So that will cover, traditionally we’ll cover a basic level two charger. it but it is when you get into the larger. I don’t know, Albert, if you want to jump in here with the larger number of deployments or,

00:07:02:14 – 00:07:20:11
Speaker 2
Yeah, it gets more difficult, right? It will cover in most customers cases. It will take care of the infrastructure costs. There are some other factors depending on upgrades necessary, if they want to use DC fast charging, there could be some additional cost over the $20,000, which in many cases they actually can get a lot of it covered or most of it, you know, covered for that.

00:07:20:13 – 00:07:21:15
Speaker 2
a dollar amount.

00:07:21:17 – 00:07:22:05
Speaker 1
No.

00:07:22:06 – 00:07:29:03
Speaker 3
Sorry. Oh, well, you you mentioned you said if you apply for an EV, is funding available for non EVs?

00:07:29:03 – 00:08:06:09
Speaker 1
Yes. So, a clean fuels such as propane or CNG are also available, but there are not infrastructure, funds available for those types. But I did want to circle back and say that infrastructure is one of the biggest hurdles to some of even some of the recipients of the clean school bus program. So we’re encouraging, any school just any school district who might be interested in transitioning to EV to go ahead and have a site assessment from their utility company or from, in charge, which is, our charging partner.

00:08:06:11 – 00:08:11:19
Speaker 2
And that’s all the time we have today. So, thank you, Lauren, and thank you for co-hosting today, Andy.

00:08:11:22 – 00:08:12:14
Speaker 3
My pleasure.

00:08:12:20 – 00:08:15:05
Speaker 2
And that’s our bird’s eye view on grant funding.