Virginia will dedicate $20 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust (VW Trust) to fund a new initiative aimed at accelerating the deployment of electric school buses across the Commonwealth.
Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement during a Climate Week NYC event hosted by the United States Climate Alliance with the governors of California, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Washington.
Starting early next year, public school districts in Virginia can apply for funding distributed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) through a competitive application process that will be administered in partnership with the Department of Education. This initiative will prioritize electric school buses with a small reserve set aside for propane school buses.
“School buses are the safest way to transport students to and from school, but as a pediatric doctor, I know the harmful effects of diesel-powered buses on our children’s health,” said Governor Northam. “This initiative represents a significant investment in the electrification of our transportation system, in our efforts to address the climate crisis, and in an environment that allows Virginia children to learn, grow, and thrive.”
Nearly all of Virginia’s school bus fleet runs on diesel, with approximately 3,500 buses older than 10 years. More than 500 buses still in operation across the Commonwealth use engines built prior to the first Environmental Protection Agency diesel standards. Replacing 75 buses with all-electric school buses results in a lifetime savings of 670,000 pounds nitrogen oxide, approximately 41,000 pounds of particulate matter population, and 36 million pounds of greenhouse gas tailpipe emissions. This is equivalent to removing 3,500 cars from the road or saving 1.6 million gallons of diesel.
“Replacing aging buses is better for the health of school children and will save school divisions money,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “Each electric school bus can save districts nearly $2,000 a year in fuel and $4,400 a year in reduced maintenance costs, saving tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a bus.”
Public school districts may be reimbursed up to $265,000 for the purchase of an all-electric school bus, including charging infrastructure. Public school districts may be reimbursed up to $20,000 for the purchase of a propane bus provided that the bus being replaced is a model year 1997 or older bus and that the application includes justification why an electric school bus is not feasible as a replacement. Electric school buses purchased under this program must have a minimum range of 100 miles.
Additional scoring criteria will include: priority for electric buses, amount of reimbursement requested per bus, the age of the buses to be replaced, current annual mileage of the buses to be replaced, and the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals across the school district. Awards will be made until funds are exhausted and through one or multiple funding cycles if necessary.
“Transportation pollution is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Virginia,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Additionally, diesel exhaust poses significant health risks associated with both pulmonary and cardiovascular issues. Transitioning bus fleets from diesel to electric is a critically important step toward cleaner air, reducing carbon pollution, and helping Virginia meet our environmental goals.”
This is the third announcement of funding that Virginia has allocated from the Volkswagen settlement through a state mitigation plan. DEQ is the designated lead agency acting on the state’s behalf as beneficiary to distribute Virginia’s share of $93.6 million from the settlement. Last year, Governor Northam announced approximately $14 million in funding to develop the Commonwealth’s electric vehicle charging network and an additional $14 million to fund the deployment of electric transit buses.