Long drive to Canada’s transition to electric school buses
Riding the school bus can be the most unhealthy part of a child’s day.
Diesel-powered school buses emit toxic fumes that can seriously harm children’s health and interfere with learning, child health advocates say.
Canada needs to transition to all-electric school bus fleets to protect the health of children and local communities, says the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and the Environment (CPCHE) , a coalition of 34 organizations.
“By moving to electric school buses, we can help our children thrive physically and mentally,” CPCHE executive director Erica Phipps told The Weather Network.
This will also protect the environment for generations to come with a highly visible measure against climate change, added Phipps.
The vast majority of Canada’s 50,000 school buses use diesel fuel to transport approximately 2.2 million children to and from school. Fewer than 200 buses are currently electric, including one new electric vehicle in Saskatchewan and 80 in PEI built by The Lion Electric Co. Lion of Quebec is the only custom-built Type-C all-electric school bus manufacturer in North America.
LionC electric school bus. (Lion)
According to US studies, pollution levels from diesel school buses often exceed the surrounding areas by a factor of five to ten. Diesel exhaust contains very fine carbon particles and a mixture of toxic gases and is a carcinogen according to Health Canada.
When researchers from the University of British Columbia exposed adults to diesel exhaust in a manner similar to road exposure, they found that it reduced the test subjects’ attention span and blurred memories their within two hours of exposure. The effects were temporary but showed how air pollution can affect our brains.
“Children are much more sensitive to pollutants than adults. We’ve known for a long time that air pollution from traffic has multiple effects on children’s health,” Dr. Samantha Green, Toronto GP and president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association told The Weather. -Environment (CAPE). Network.
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A 2022 study by CAPE found that traffic-related air pollution led to decreased lung function, asthma incidence and prevalence in children. Other studies have found a staggering range of health effects in adults, including respiratory and cardiovascular disease, neurological effects, cancer, diabetes, eczema, and noise-related illnesses such as insomnia, anxiety and depression.
In addition, air pollution is responsible for one in seven premature deaths worldwide.
Mapping a new route forward
Green says it should be a no-brainer to replace noisy, polluting diesel school buses with quiet, clean-running electric models.
But in addition to better health and school outcomes for children, and cleaner and quieter schools and neighborhoods, there are other benefits: Electric buses can also serve as a backup power source in emergencies. PEI will use its fleet of new electrified school buses as mobile backup batteries during natural disasters such as post-tropical storm Fiona.
The survey shows that the vast majority of children are concerned about climate change and very concerned about the lack of action. This transition to electric vehicles could be a way to show children and young people that governments and school boards are taking action on the climate crisis.
READ MORE: Why these mums are fighting to electrify school buses
Recently, CAPE, together with other members of the coalition, asked decision makers to support policies and financial measures that support the acquisition, operations and infrastructure of electric buses.
School bus fleets are typically operated by private contractors such as First Student who operate 44,000 school buses in Canada and the United States.
TTC19 eBusService EP
One of the Toronto Transit Commission’s electric buses. (TTC)
The Toronto public transit company, which recorded more than 25 million trips annually by children under 12 in the pre-pandemic era, has a fleet of about 2,000 diesel buses. By the end of this year, however, 336 electric-hybrid buses will be in service, saving $6.8 million a year in diesel fuel costs, according to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). By 2025, the TTC will only purchase zero-emission buses to replace their diesel ones.
Expensive transition or inaction?
According to Steve McCauley, senior director of Pollution Probe, lack of awareness of the dangers of air pollution and the benefits of electric buses are two main reasons that there are so few electric school buses in use.
Electric school buses also cost significantly more to purchase and install the necessary charging infrastructure. However, according to McCauley, there are significant operational savings.
“The response from PEI’s electric school bus operators has been very positive,” he told The Weather Network.
Funding sources exist, but they do not cover the full cost. For example, the Canadian government’s Zero Emission Transit Fund is providing $2.75 billion over five years to help public transportation and school bus operators electrify their fleets, including ix -purchase of buses with zero emissions.
Canada Infrastructure Bank said last week it would invest $62 million to help Durham Region Transit buy 98 all-electric buses. The investment covers the cost difference between diesel and electric buses and is part of a $1.5 billion commitment under the Zero Emission Transit Fund for more than 5,000 buses with zero emission.
“Given what we know about the health effects of diesel emissions on children and the risks of climate change, we have moved to an all-electric school bus fleet across the country everything should be an obvious choice to protect children’s health now and in the future,” said Phipps.
Thumbnail: A yellow school bus under a blue sky. (David McElwee/Pexels)