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09 February, 2023

Round 2 of EPA Clean School Bus Program Funding Rebates: Get Prepared for 2023 Applications

CSBP 2nd Round Submissions May Begin As Early As Q1 2023

With funding made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021, EPA’s Clean School Bus Program (CSBP) will provide $5B over five years (through FY 2026) to replace existing (mostly diesel) school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models.

The EPA has not yet announced the program design details for Round 2 of the CSBP or when the agency will begin accepting applications for it, but they have indicated they expect the second round to occur early in 2023. The agency has also publicly noted that Round 2 will be competitive as opposed to driven by a random lottery, as was the case for Round 1.

Of the $5B allocated to the CSBP, just under $1B was awarded in Round 1. That means there is up to $4B still available to qualified school districts that want to upgrade to clean technology buses (EPA CSBP overview website link). While $4B sounds like a lot, school districts filed requests for roughly $4B in new buses in Round 1. With growing awareness of EPA funding and increasing demand for clean school buses, we can expect the funding to go quickly.

Round 1 in Q4 2022 Awarded Nearly $1B, Funding Over 2.5K Buses

The lottery-based EPA CSBP Round 1 culminated with nearly $1B of rebates awarded to 401 school districts, from roughly 2,000 applications. In all, over 2,500 clean technology buses were funded — 2,444 of which were electric. It is worth noting that these totals will adjust somewhat over time (e.g., EPA originally announced 391 winners) as some winning districts drop out and EPA announces some new awards.

Tips for a Successful CSBP Round 2 Application

While the details of EPA’s Round 2 program are not available yet, our experience with many other competitive grant programs indicates that districts are going to have to modify their approach to applications significantly. To be successful in a competitive world, the EPA CSBP Round 2 application will likely require a concerted, dynamic effort from districts seeking funding. Even if you’re a district that participated in Round 1, you will need to do significantly more project planning prior to submitting an application for Round 2 than you did previously and you’ll need to tailor your approach to the new application requisites and any associated scoring system.

Here are four elements that are likely to be important in determining the likelihood of success in a Round 2 application:

1. Quality of Application

Even without details of the Round 2 program, we know a competitive program will require a much more robust application than the Round 1 lottery. Competitive programs generally require a deeper knowledge of project structure up front, more information on the existing fleet and its needs, a compelling reason that your district should be awarded funds, and an explanation of how you’ll put the incentive money to good use.

2. Relevant Experience

Competitive programs tend to ask for demonstrations of relevant experience. While engagement on transportation electrification is the most directly relevant experience a district can reference, other paradigm shifts to reduce carbon footprints, such as enacting recycling programs, or investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects can show an ongoing practice of embracing change in this arena. When it comes to building out your direct experience with vehicle electrification, keep in mind that project partners can significantly bolster a district’s case. As you look for those partners, you’ll want to make sure they have specific experience with school bus electrification and demonstrable success with those deployments.

3. Probability of Success

There are many factors that play into the success of a school district’s transportation electrification effort, including buses, chargers, utility infrastructure, software, training, maintenance, change management, and funding as the primary categories. A school district that shows it has a handle on what it can reasonably accomplish and what it needs to close any gaps will be well positioned when it comes to a successful application. Early review of what utility infrastructure is available or will be available to address the “on the ground” charging needs; what space is available at your depot(s) for charging equipment; and what training protocols and programs are needed for drivers, maintenance, and repairs are all great examples of areas where probability of success can be demonstrated or shown to be lacking.

4. Maximization of Application Score

In a competitive grant program, you need to make sure that your application is as effective and noteworthy as possible so it stands out in a potentially crowded batch of applications. That is likely to be especially important given the volume of applications that EPA received in Round 1 of the program. As you look for ways to stand out, you’ll want to think deeply about the selection criteria and any scoring system that is used. An experienced and trusted project partner familiar with state and federal electric school bus competitive grants and the EPA program specifically can help you think through project design to maximize your application’s effectiveness.

Electric School Bus Grant Applications Are a Challenging Process but Having the Right Partner Can Make it Simple

There’s nothing like having experience, but where do you find it if this is all so new?

Highland has the most experience in the industry applying for federal, local, and state-level grants. We also have the most experience actually deploying successful electric school bus projects, so you get a one-stop-shop that can help you all the way from writing and submitting applications to acquire funding through project execution and deployment.

Highland has been deeply involved with the first round of the CSBP—not only helping our partner districts apply but also providing free expertise during “office hours” for districts just seeking information, advice, and help navigating the EPA’s program and website. Our mission is to make school bus electrification accessible and affordable for all: We believe that every school district should have the opportunity to make this generational shift to a cleaner technology, and we are here to help that happen, whether a district decides to partner with us or not.

But even before we started helping districts put together their applications for the CSBP, we were working to provide our expertise and vision to stakeholders on every level. Matt Stanberry, Highland’s Managing Director, Market Development, has testified for the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee about the private sector’s perspective on the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law with a focus on the Clean School Bus Program.And before joining Highland, Director of Market Development Amy McGuire led policy design for transportation electrification and other clean technologies at the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. She and other members of our experienced policy team have provided input to policymakers in state legislatures, Congress, and the EPA to help shape legislation and programs that will get more electric school buses on the roads as quickly and effectively as possible.

Highland Is Always Ready to Help Make a Difference

Whether you have already partnered with us or just have a question, the Highland team is always available to be a resource. Fleet electrification is complex, and rebate programs can be challenging to navigate -- we believe that upgrading to cleaner, better transportation for our kids shouldn’t be something you have to undertake alone.

Please contact us anytime via phone at (978) 288-1105 or email at

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