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By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, May 4 (Reuters) - Two senior U.S. Senate Democrats on Tuesday proposed spending $73 billion to electrify the nation's 70,000 transit buses as part of a push to move the United States toward zero-emission transportation.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown noted that only 2% of U.S. buses were zero-emission vehicles. They propose using funds to buy electric transit buses and vans and other vehicles and for related infrastructure costs.
The plan calls for "100% zero emission vehicles." A fact sheet did not specify a date to phase out diesel-powered buses but prioritized funding for areas with the poorest air quality.
The senators said the average cost of a battery electric bus was between $850,000 and $900,000 and that hydrogen fuel cell buses averaged $1 million or more.
"Significantly increasing the size of orders for zero-emissions buses will lead to major reductions in prices," the fact sheet said, adding agencies would save money on operating costs once upfront costs and infrastructure issues are addressed.
Schumer said the plan would replace "dirty, diesel-spewing buses, create new American jobs, help save the planet and protect public health."
President Joe Biden's administration, as part of its $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan, has proposed $25 billion for zero-emission transit vehicles and $20 billion for electrifying school buses as part of a $174 billion EV and infrastructure package.
The senators' plan would require that all vehicles purchased using the funds be made in the United States.
American Public Transportation Association Chief Executive Paul Skoutelas said the sector strongly supports "a game-changing investment in zero-emission buses and charging infrastructure."
The senators cited a study from the Center for Transportation and the Environment estimating costs to transition to a zero-emission transit bus fleet by 2035 at between $56 billion and $89 billion.
The U.S. government in 2020 spent just $130 million on zero- emission bus grants, the senators said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney)