Your Local News | Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
School News

Bethlehem schools to get electric buses through state grant

Chloe Nouvelle
Bethlehem Area School District is embarking on a new initiative to add electric vehicles to its fleet.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Bethlehem Area School District plans to use a $1 million state grant to buy two electric school buses.

It’s part of a pilot program by the district to evaluate whether to switch from its fleet of diesel buses to electric vehicles.

  • BASD received a $1 million state grant to buy electric buses
  • It is part of a pilot program
  • Superintendent Joseph Roy said he hopes it will benefit the environment and the bottom line

The grant, which state Sen. Lisa Boscola, (D-Lehigh/Northampton), helped secure, provides funding to buy the vehicles and create the infrastructure, such as charging stations. The district will partner with PPL Electric to build that over the next 16 months.

The EVs most likely would be delivered in spring 2024.

    BASD Superintendent Joseph Roy said the district now has more than 100 buses that travel about 6,000 miles a day picking up and dropping off taking students. He said it could make sense for the district to make the switch if the pilot program is successful.

    “If we can move to electric vehicles, we can really cut down on that environmental impact."
    BASD Superintendent Joseph Roy

    “If we can move to electric vehicles, we can really cut down on that environmental impact,” Roy said.

    Diesel vehicles emit exhaust that contributes to air pollution. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it can cause or worsen health conditions such as asthma, heart disease and other respiratory illness. It also contributes to ground-level pollution and global climate change.

    “Moving towards EV buses, which is good for the environment, seems like low-hanging fruit,” Boscola said in a news release. “However, transitioning to EV buses cannot be done overnight. BASD is uniquely positioned to demonstrate that this can be done smartly.”

    Roy said moving to electric buses instead of diesel also could save the district money on maintenance.

    “My understanding is because they have fewer moving parts, literally there’s no engine — it’s just the battery," he said. "They’re easier to maintain in the long run. There’s less things that can go wrong.”

    But the up-front cost is steep. One electric bus can be $400,000, almost four times the cost of a diesel one.

    Roy said the pilot program will allow the administration a couple of years to “test drive” them and see if buying more is worth the money. Then it could apply for additional grant funding to purchase them over the next several years.

    “I’m hoping that over those couple of years that the electric vehicle prices come down,” he said.