A bill to create an electric school bus pilot program passed the Senate on Thursday unanimously.
The version of Senate Bill 417, now directed to the Senate Finance Committee, directs the Department of Environmental Services to begin an electric school bus pilot program by the end of 2023. The program would be funded by the state Volkswagen settlement funds and federal infrastructure money. bill, which set aside $5 billion for electric buses across the country.
The bill enjoys bipartisan support, with a Republican senator and the House vice speaker signing on as co-sponsors, along with a handful of Democrats from both houses. Senator David Watters, a Democrat from Dover, said the pilot project should start with five buses. An electric school bus costs about $400,000, according to testimony from the Department of Environmental Services.
Proponents of the bill have pointed to the public health benefits of electric buses, reducing diesel fumes that can be harmful to human health. Clean energy advocates are pushing for a switch to electric vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, the largest contributor to state emissions.
The bill will then go to the Senate Finance Committee.