Bethlehem Central School District has received $1 million in funding from the New York State...

Bethlehem Central School District has received $1 million in funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to purchase five electric school buses for the 2021-22 school year.

Photo courtesy Bethlehem Central School District

A school district based in Delmar, New York, has secured $1 million in state funding to purchase electric school buses.

Bethlehem Central School District announced on Wednesday that its application to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA’s) New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program (NYTVIP) has been approved, according to a news release from the district. The approval will reportedly provide up to $1 million in state funding for the district’s purchase of five Jouley electric school buses from Thomas Built Buses for the 2021-22 school year.

Bethlehem is one of the first district-operated school bus fleets in New York State to be awarded the NYTVIP funding to help advance its clean energy goals for student transportation. (In February 2020, New York City school bus company Logan Bus Co. secured a $1 million grant from NYSERDA to convert five of its diesel buses to electric. The first of those buses were delivered in June.)

As School Bus Fleet previously reported, in May, Bethlehem Central School District received voter approval to begin a transition to zero-emission school buses on the condition it could secure the NYTVIP funds for its initial purchase. Voters approved a maximum of $1.475 million to purchase up to nine school buses, including the five electric buses. Also approved as part of the bus proposition was $200,000 for necessary infrastructure, including charging stations, for the electric buses.

“We are thrilled to be able to share this news and, more importantly, introduce electric buses to our fleet,” said Jody Monroe, the district's superintendent. “This commitment of financial support from New York State is a pivotal moment for the Bethlehem community. It paves the way for safer, cleaner, and quieter rides for children — one that comes with a much smaller carbon footprint and the opportunity to be at the forefront of the move to alternative energies.”

Under the terms of the NYTVIP, Bethlehem will be removing nine older diesel buses, purchased in 2009, from its fleet, according to the district. Five of the 2009 diesel buses will reportedly be scrapped and permanently removed from service.

Bethlehem Central School District said it will continue to seek additional funding opportunities to replace older diesel bus models with new electric ones, as it hopes to convert at least 50% of its school bus fleet from diesel to electric over the next 10 years.

“Our goal has always been to maintain a bus fleet in a cost-efficient manner, and we needed a plan to electrify the bus fleet over time in a way that is cost neutral. The funding provides the springboard to do just that,” Judith Kehoe, the district’s chief business and financial officer, said in the news release. “We expect, as time goes on, that prices will come down and there will be even more incentives for electric vehicles. We see an electric bus fleet as an achievable goal, one that benefits everyone but especially the children we serve.”

Karim Johnson, the district’s director of student transportation, added that the five electric buses are expected to begin operating during the 2021-22 school year.

“As it is for manufacturing everywhere, there is a lengthy timeline from order to delivery. However, we are very optimistic we will have these vehicles on the road sometime in the new school year,” Johnson said. “Electric buses are the future of school transportation. They will deliver all of the traditional safety features of our diesel buses but with the added benefits of a cleaner environment for students and the community as a whole.”