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Advocates for electric school buses want New Mexico to follow Colorado's lead

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Roz Brown

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(New Mexico News Connection) Studies show the health of New Mexico children who ride school buses could improve if the buses were electric instead of diesel, and efforts are underway to initiate a change.

Research has shown breathing diesel exhaust from school buses can lead to asthma and other respiratory illnesses. This year, the "School Bus Modernization Act" was introduced at the Roundhouse to provide school districts with the option to swap aging diesel buses with electric.

Charles Goodmacher, founder of the consulting firm Do Good and an advocate for electric buses, said while some have argued it is not a good fit for such a rural state, he believes otherwise.

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"Ninety-one percent of New Mexico's school bus routes are 70 miles or shorter in total length, out and back, and the bus ranges are up to 120 miles," Goodmacher pointed out.

New Mexico school buses are replaced with state funds every 12 years. Goodmacher said the Modernization Act would remove disincentives local districts face in buying them while also providing financial aid. The Clean School Bus Program is part of the 2021 Bipartisan Inflation Reduction Act, with $5 billion in funding from the Environmental Protection Agency

Although electric school buses currently cost a lot more than diesel options, they are touted for better mileage in addition to health outcomes. Goodmacher noted unlike some other states, the New Mexico bill introduced by Rep. Debbie Sarinana, D-Albuquerque, does not contain a mandate for schools to purchase electric buses.

"Colorado last year allocated $65 million for the purchase of electric school buses," Goodmacher explained. "Maryland, Maine, New York and California are mandating that all their school buses be electric by either 2035 or by 2040."

According to Goodmacher, studies show children riding in diesel buses could inhale four to eight times the particulate matter as those riding in a car in the same vicinity. Data from the World Resources Institute shows more than 20 million children ride the school bus across the U.S. and more than 90 percent run on diesel fuel.