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More electric school buses are coming soon to Central Florida

Image of an electric school bus purchased last year by Orange County Public Schools, Florida's first school district to operate electric buses.
Orange County Public Schools
In 2023, Orange County Public Schools became Florida's first school district to start operating electric school buses.

Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) and Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS) are two of four Florida public school districts recently selected for federal funding to buy electric school buses, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

OCPS gets $5 million to expand the district’s electric school bus program, after launching Florida’s first such program last year. SCPS gets $525,000 to buy more than 15 clean school buses for its growing fleet, according to the EPA.

Jim Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) at the University of Central Florida (UCF), says just like all electric vehicles, electric school buses are healthier and more energy efficient than their gas-powered counterparts. But electrifying school buses can be a particularly pragmatic choice, he says, because school bus routes tend to be fixed and relatively short, ending at the same fueling location each day.

Moving forward, Fenton says electric school buses could potentially serve another unique role, as an emergency power source for schools using solar energy.

“When they're not being used, [the buses] could conceivably be putting electricity back into the school. So instead of putting electricity into the bus, you're actually getting electricity out of the bus,” Fenton said. “The schools could all be emergency shelters if they had solar on the roof as well.”

Upfront costs often pose the biggest barrier to renewable energy, Fenton says, but in the long run, electric buses are actually much more cost-effective than those relying on traditional fossil fuels. The goal is to encourage people to switch from buying fuels to buying technologies, he said.

“When you spend money on your gasoline-powered school bus, that's an expense,” Fenton said. “Using the school bus with batteries and backup power: now, it's an investment.”

Statewide, there were nearly 18,000 school buses during the 2021-22 school year, according to the most recent data available from Florida’s Department of Education. At that time, none of Florida’s school buses were electric.

Molly is an award-winning reporter with a background in video production and investigative journalism, focused on covering environmental issues for WMFE and WMFV.

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