Virginia Funds Electric School Bus Initiative
published on January 02, 2020 by Sonia Mastros
In the field of alt-energy school bus designs, electric school buses have lagged behind many of the competitors such as propane or natural gas. Until recently, electric buses had been seen as too under-powered and too short-ranged to be effective as student transport, but now multiple viable models have begun to enter the market.
Now, Virginia has become one of the first states to make a significant push towards the adoption of electric buses within their borders with a pledge of $20 million in funding - and it's with the indirect help of Volkswagen.
Virginia Pledges $20M to Pay for Electric School Buses
How is Virginia able to put so much money towards electric bus adoption? It's thanks to the massive $10 billion dollar settlement Volkswagen agreed to, due to its years of subverting emissions testing. That money is being spread throughout the states, and Virginia is using it exactly as intended: to fight pollution.
So, beginning next year, districts within Virginia will be able to apply for funding to purchase electric school buses, as well as the charging apparatus the buses require. The $20 million is expected to pay for approximately 75 full buses, although a small part of that amount will also be set aside to pay for propane-powered buses as well.
Virginia is no stranger to pushing electric vehicles, either. In 2018, they put $28 million in funding towards improving the state's electric vehicle charging infrastructure, as well as purchasing electric civic buses for mass transit. This puts them among the top tier of states investing in electric.
However, this will still only be a drop in the bucket, in terms of their overall in-state bus fleet. According to the Virginia government, there are approximately 3,500 school buses in use within the state, and nearly all of them run on diesel. Five-hundred are old enough to pre-date any EPA regulations on diesel fuels! This illustrates the problem that districts will face for many years to come, trying to move their vehicle fleets away from conventional fossil fuels.
Still, the good cannot be overlooked. The state estimates that the introduction of these electric buses will reduce their environmental footprint significantly: 36 million pounds of tailpipe emissions, 670,000 pounds of nitrous oxide, and 41,000 pounds of particulate matter, will all be saved over the lifetime of these buses.
Alt fuels are becoming a hot topic among school districts. Has your district begun to think about moving away from fossil fuels? What funding options have you explored? Let's discuss it in the comments!