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Electrifying School Buses in the Southeast

Helping the wheels on the bus go round and round (but very quietly) through the Clean School Bus Program.
CLIENT TVA Innovation & Research
DURATION May 2022 - Ongoing

The mission

Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s new Clean School Bus Program allocated $5 billion to replace existing school buses with zero- and low-emission models. While this is a great opportunity for school districts, especially those in disadvantaged communities, to be reimbursed for upgrading their fleet, applying for grants and rebates can be a daunting and time-consuming process. Additionally, electric school buses are a new technology whose uses and benefits are not well enough understood to drive adoption, and many school districts do not have the time and knowledge to navigate this process.

To overcome these barriers and ensure school districts capitalize on this once in a lifetime funding, Milepost has assisted TVA’s Innovation & Research team in supporting schools through the service territory in pursuing federal funding by demystifying electric school buses, explaining EPA’s guidance, and connecting school districts with other stakeholders.

Understanding that each school district and community is at a different place in their knowledge and understanding of EVs, we have worked to tailor information to meet school districts and other stakeholders, such as TVA’s local power company partners, where they are. 

While both are interested, schools have responded well to more basic explanations while other stakeholders have been more interested in the nitty gritty (details related to rates and integrated planning).

With this tailored approach, the first step has been to educate the educators! We have brought together a diverse group of school districts, ranging from small to large and rural to urban, and stakeholders to raise awareness about the funding opportunity and benefits of electric school buses.

To support school districts during the application process, we have held weekly meetings (think office hours) where school districts and local utility representatives can ask rebate-specific questions in a small group setting.

A cohort has been developed (like an adult study group) for school districts to learn about electric school busses and charging infrastructure, understand requirements and timelines for EPA’s rebates, and connect with stakeholders like their local power companies, clean fuel coalitions, and regional and national subject matter experts. Together, these resources have helped participating schools deploy their new electric buses.

TVA Clean School Bus

What we did

  • Application and guidance research and communication

  • Outreach and engagement strategy

  • Email campaigns

  • Messaging frameworks

  • Meeting facilitation

  • External stakeholder identification and outreach

  • Internal stakeholder coordination

The results

During the first year of funding, 22 school districts across the Valley have been awarded $59,355,000 in rebates for 153 electric school buses. The office hours also proved successful, as all 14 school districts that attended and applied were awarded rebates or waitlisted. With these initial successes, we are excited and inspired to see TVA continue to drive electric vehicle adoption across TVA’s service area, support reducing carbon emissions – all while sending kids to school in a cleaner, quieter, and more affordable mode of transportation.