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Local News

Colorado Launches Grant Programs to Fund Electric School Buses, Truck Fleets

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by Chase Woodruff, Colorado Newsline

School districts, local governments and businesses across Colorado can now take advantage of a pair of new state programs to help fund the switch to zero-emission electric vehicles.

State officials on Wednesday formally launched the Colorado Electric School Bus Grant Program and Clean Fleet Vehicle and Technology Grant Program, authorized by recent legislation passed by lawmakers in the General Assembly.

Administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the grant programs provide up to $375,000 per vehicle to school districts to purchase new battery-powered buses, up to $8,000 for each light-duty fleet vehicle, and up to 60% of the cost of new electric trucks.

The state’s electric school bus effort received $65 million in funding from the Legislature as part of a clean-air package last year, and it complements an Environmental Protection Agency rebate program that will spend $5 billion over the next five years to help school districts purchase new electric bus models nationwide.

“Thanks to this program, kids all across Colorado will be able to get on board a clean, efficient, electric school bus,” Nissa Erickson, federal funding coordinator for the Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, said in a statement. “That will mean cleaner air for kids to breathe, a safer climate for Colorado, and meaningful budget savings for school districts, so they can spend more on teaching and less on transportation.”

An initial round of EPA funding last year allocated $2.9 million towards the purchase of eight EV buses for four Colorado school districts.

Contributes to local air pollution

Colorado’s clean fleet program offers similar incentives to local governments and businesses that operate large numbers of light-, medium- or heavy-duty vehicles. It was created by state lawmakers’ sweeping 2021 transportation package, and is funded through fees on ridesharing and delivery services.

Officials say the clean-fleet grants are “stackable” with other federal incentives, including those passed as part of congressional Democrats’ 2022 clean-energy law. In addition to purchasing incentives, fleet operators could receive additional awards for committing to scrap older gas-powered models as part of their overhaul.

The funding comes as state air quality officials prepare to take up a long-delayed regulation known as the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which aims to require manufacturers of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission models. The Air Quality Control Commission is scheduled to hold a hearing on the ACT rule at its monthly meeting in April.

In addition to emitting climate-warming greenhouse gases, gas-powered vehicles are a leading contributor to local air pollution, especially in heavily industrial areas that tend to be located in and around low-income communities and communities of color.

“These new programs will be a great additional tool to help Colorado improve air quality in our disproportionately impacted communities that suffer the greatest health impacts from air pollution,” Juan Roberto Madrid, a clean transportation policy advocate at GreenLatinos, said in a statement.

Applications for both the Electric School Bus Grant Program and the Clean Fleet Vehicle and Technology Grant Program will close on June 30.

This story was written by Chase Woodruff, a reporter at the Colorado Newsline, where this story first appeared.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.