The New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club is taking on a new initiative: Getting school districts to use electric buses.

Kip Cherry says the environmental organization is strongly supporting legislation to advance electric school buses, calling for a pilot program for three districts in northern, central and southern parts of the state.

She says electric school buses have enormous advantages when it comes to keeping air clean.

"The first major benefit is to the children who are actually riding the buses because they have to stand in line in order to get on or off the buses and they're in the cab of the bus. The pollutant from the fossil fuel that the bus burns filters into the kids' lungs," she said.

Electric school buses reduce greenhouse gases because they don't emit pollutants. By taking diesel buses off the road, pollution from leaking fuel tanks will be eliminated.

It's also cheaper to own and operate an electric school bus than diesel school buses, thereby saving New Jersey taxpayers money, she said. She says electric vehicles do not require the same level of maintenance. Electric buses do not need oil changes or emissions testing and there is less wear and tear on the braking system.

The cost of electric power is actually more stable than diesel or gas fuel, making it easier for school boards to budget expenses over time.

Funding is available already from two sources: The Board of Public Utilities Societal Benefits Program and the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund.

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