Webinar explains details of zero-emission vehicle grant funding in California

Webinar explains details of zero-emission vehicle grant funding in California

Webinar explains details of zero-emission vehicle grant funding in California

With certain states implementing clean fuel bus mandates and the growing trend toward purchasing electric or other alternative fuel buses, the race is on to apply for federal and state funding.

A webinar held on May 23 discussed clean bus financing options, specifically in California. The webinar was hosted by AZ Bus Sales and Peter Tuckerman, the dealership’s director of new school bus sales. He opened the presentation by saying that the company embraces clean fuel technology not only because it is an inevitable future for student transportation but because it is the best option for students and communities. He went on to say that this is especially true in California, where the state mandates that 100 percent of new school bus purchases must be zero emissions by 2035.

“That goal, that demand is on the horizon. It’s something that, whether people like it or not, we have to understand,” Tuckerman said. “But they also recognize that school districts don’t have big coffers or money left for big advances in technology like this. So the grant program really helps move people toward that goal.

Tuckerman went on to say that the purpose of grant funding is to prepare people to meet zero-emissions requirements and not be blindsided by state deadlines.

There is $500 million in state funding for clean energy school buses in California alone, but that amount would only buy about 1,100 buses when there are more than 24,000 in the state. Data from the World Resources Institute’s Electric School Bus Initiative indicates there are nearly 1,200 electric school buses in operation in California as of this report, with another 1,200 ESBs ordered and more than 700 awarded. Tuckerman said he encourages districts to take advantage of those funds and not postpone them because they are there to help with the transition.

Webinar panelists continued to explain different aspects of funding, including federal vs. state funding, accrual options, limitations, and requirements. While there are multiple grant options in California, the top three discussed were the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Clean Heavy Duty Vehicle Grant Program, the Truck Voucher Incentive Project, and hybrid and zero-emission buses (HVIP) and the new Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Incentive Project (HVIP). -Emissions school buses and infrastructure financing opportunity (ZESBI).

Esther Hurtado, Grants Manager at AZ Bus Sales, highlighted the details of the EPA’s Clean Heavy Duty Grant Program. She shared that the program focuses on Class 6 and 7 school buses, and is a replacement program, not an expansion program. This means that districts can recover money for trading diesel buses. There is also a minimum purchase requirement of 10 buses and a maximum of 50 buses. She also said grant funds can be used for infrastructure. Hurtado said EPA grants can be combined with HVIP and other funds from local sources, which can be helpful in managing the costs of new electric buses.

“This is a competitive grant. “It is long, intense, and requires a grant writer,” she added.

With the July 25 application deadline approaching, he said it’s important to start reviewing what it takes to apply. He advised taking advantage of the wait time and contacting the AZ grants team. which offers grant writing services in cooperation with Blue Bird and Cummins Inc.

Next, Hurtado spoke about the financing of ZESBI. He explained that it started as Senate Bill 114 and progressed to become the Green Bus Project before settling on its current name. The funding combines $375 million from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and $125 million from the California Energy Commission. This is a joint application, meaning the funding covers both buses and infrastructure.

ZESBI is also a replacement program, but unlike EPA’s point system for evaluating applications, it is an award prioritization system. There is no bus minimum as is the case with EPA funding. He explained that the funds will be distributed through three tiers: the first for small, rural or local education agencies that serve a large number of unduplicated students, or UPC; the second for lower-income or disadvantaged communities; and the third for all other applicants at the state level.

Hurtado encouraged districts to apply even if they are not at a higher tier, because the funds are time-stamped, meaning if funds are still available after completing the first tier, they will be redistributed to lower tiers. He also clarified that EPA and HVIP funds cannot be accumulated with ZESBI funds.

School buses that are traded in for ZESBI funding must have a current California Highway Patrol certification and Department of Motor Vehicles registration, but trade-in options are not limited to diesel. Districts can also market propane, gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG) models.

Ashley Melchor, Grant Coordinator for AZ Bus Sales, discussed the electrical infrastructure that can be purchased through ZESBI financing, including one charger per bus and the cost of acquisition and installation. She went on to say that there are maximum incentives depending on the type of charger the district chooses.

ZESBI applicants will be required to meet a list of requirements, including proof of compliance with the CARB Clean Truck Check, which school buses are typically exempt from but which is required when applying for grants. Other requirements included developing a charging and routing plan, selecting what type of chargers are needed, and an initial infrastructure plan.

Melchor went on to say that districts must apply for ZESBI funds directly, but that AZ grants can help ensure all checklists are met and documents are organized before applications are submitted.

Joe Ordóñez, electric vehicle infrastructure division manager at AZ Connect (electric vehicle management software from AZ Bus Sales), discussed infrastructure project considerations, including charger selection, site requirements, and software that will allow you to optimize charging schedules. He also noted that an off-grid option should be considered in case of power outages.

Ordóñez continued that site tours should be conducted with local utility companies to determine exactly where and when chargers can be installed, as utility deployment can take up to 18 months. He also said AZ’s smart charging software can help with the reporting requirements needed for funding programs, using low carbon fuel standard credits where districts receive reimbursement for charging energy used, and to determine the most cost-effective time and rate for shippers.

Michelle Hanson, director of bus and innovative mobility programs at CALSTART, discussed the details of the HVIP funding opportunity. She explained that it does allow the fleet to be expanded, since it does not require scrapping buses. She went on to say that to use the funds, districts must apply and work with an HVIP-approved distributor. You can find a list of distributors at

Tuckerman responded to an audience question about the viability of electric buses replacing traditional diesel buses, saying that it is important to remember that electric bus technology is improving rapidly in terms of range and drivability and that it is important do not rule out the need for detailed loading. infrastructure plan.

“My encouragement would be that they can make these (electric buses) very successful in their fleet,” Tuckerman said. “By choosing the right routes and working to make sure you have the right infrastructure, they will absolutely work, they will absolutely take the places of existing school buses, for the right routes. As time goes on, we know they will be successful in all different areas.”

STN Editor Tony Corpin concluded the webinar by commenting on how beneficial it can be to work with a close partner like AZ Bus Sales to “leverage some of this government money, to really help amplify and expand your fleet technology.”

Watch the webinar on demand.

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