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Getting More Electric School Buses On The Road In N.B.

Like most New Brunswickers, I took the bus everyday to get to school. It’s something I look back on with a fair bit of nostalgia today, especially as a father whose kid will one day ride the bus each day and share similar experiences as I did—those sleepy mornings gathered with other kids at the side of the road, stealing a last bit of socializing before a day of study, and those energetic afternoons waiting for the bus to take us home, feeling like the world is at our fingertips.

The school bus is one of the most well-known symbols for early childhood education, and it’s usually a child’s first interaction with the provincial government.

We all want the best for our children, and we all agree that school buses should be safe and reliable for New Brunswick’s students—but why then are we still okay with our kids breathing dangerous exhaust from diesel school buses during such critical years of their physical and mental development, when we have safer, healthier options today.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick is engaged in a project to promote the adoption of electric school buses in New Brunswick. Funded by the Trottier and Echo foundations, we are conducting stakeholder meetings and government advocacy to replace as many diesel school buses with electric as possible in the province. 

As part of this work, we recently held a community roundtable of stakeholders including a bus driver, parents, teachers, students, health experts, and government officials. The discussion revealed significant enthusiasm for electric school buses in N.B., and we’ll be publishing a full report of the findings in the coming weeks.

If you want to learn more about the state of electric buses in New Brunswick and the other Maritime provinces, check out our upcoming June 22 webinar with school bus officials in the region, covering the challenges and opportunities of school bus electrification. Register here.

What’s Wrong With Diesel, Propane and Gas-powered Buses?

Until recently, the New Brunswick school bus fleet ran entirely on diesel fuel as it was viewed as the most economical option. Over the last few years, the province has added some gasoline and propane buses to its fleet. 

These fuels, especially diesel and gasoline, emit dangerous air pollutants that are harmful to human health, including PM2.5, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and benzene, a known carcinogen. Learn more about these pollutants here.

Children (15 and under) are the most vulnerable to these air pollutants as their lungs are still developing. Yet they, like I did, will be waiting around for and riding these buses for a significant portion of their adolescence.

Alongside air pollutants, burning diesel also produces carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas that is contributing to the worsening effects of climate change.

The average school bus in New Brunswick will emit approximately 18 tons of carbon dioxide per year. There are roughly 1,250 school buses in New Brunswick, making the fleet one of the biggest CO2 emitters in the provincial government.

Why We Should Go Electric.

By switching to electric school buses, the province can significantly lower its carbon emissions and provide a cleaner learning environment for the next generation of students.

Electric school buses have none of the tailpipe emissions that its fossil fuels counterparts have. The only emissions from an electric bus come from its diesel heater reserved for the coldest days of the year. Other than that, electric school buses provide a much healthier learning environment for our province’s students.

And—they’re just cool!

I had the chance to see one of the province’s two electric school buses at the New Brunswick Lung Association’s Drive Electric event in Dieppe earlier this month.

It doesn’t look much different than a diesel bus on the outside, other than the blue tires, but it runs entirely differently. When it turned on, there was no loud rumble of a diesel engine, instead just a quiet hum enabling my conversation with the bus driver to proceed uninterrupted.

The bus driver told me that the kids who ride his bus take great pride in it. Even at a young age, they recognize that electric school buses are simply a step above their fossil-fuel-burning counterparts.

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