Virginia has released its second round of Volkswagen (VW) settlement funding for electric school buses.
As School Bus Fleet previously reported, in September 2019, Gov. Ralph Northam announced $20 million in VW funding to support new electric school bus initiatives across the state.
Almost two years later, Northam announced on May 7 that the Commonwealth approved another $20 million of its $93.6 million share of VW funds for electric school buses, according to a news release from the governor’s office. He also said that the state awarded over $9.4 million to fund five government fleet electrification projects through its first round of the Clean Air Communities Program.
The Clean Air Communities Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), was established as part of the agency’s oversight of the state’s VW funds. The program invests in a range of technologies that provide cost-effective, near-term emission benefits coupled with investments in zero-emission technologies, according to the governor’s office.
“Supporting clean transportation solutions is a vital part of our efforts to combat climate change and improve air quality in the Commonwealth,” Northam said. “These investments will reduce harmful vehicle pollution, which disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, and help accelerate an equitable transition to a cleaner economy for all Virginians.”
In July 2020, Northam announced the first round of funding through the Clean Air Communities Program with $20 million to support the replacement of government-owned fleet vehicles. The DEQ is reportedly now accepting applications for the second round of the program to replace the state’s diesel buses with electric or propane school buses. Applications for the program are due June 15, 2021. Additionally, a third round of funding will begin in the fall.
“Currently, approximately 99% of Virginia’s public school buses use diesel and more than 3,500 buses are at least 15 years old,” said Matthew J. Strickler, the state’s secretary of natural resources.
“Collectively, these Clean Air Community Program vehicle replacement projects will avoid the use of more than one million gallons of diesel fuel and prevent the release of over 12,000 tons of greenhouse gases and more than 30 tons of nitrogen oxides and diesel particulate matter,” said DEQ Director David Paylor. “This new program to electrify Virginia’s school bus fleets is another important part of our comprehensive approach to reducing climate pollution.”
So far, approximately $82 million of the Virginia’s $93.6 million VW funds have been awarded or earmarked for clean transportation projects, including electric transit, school, and shuttle buses; electric equipment at the Port of Virginia; and the development of a statewide electric vehicle charging network.
Another electric bus initiative taking place across the state has been led by Virginia-based power company Dominion Energy and school bus manufacturer Thomas Built Buses.
As School Bus Fleet previously reported, in December 2019, Dominion Energy selected Thomas Built Buses for phase one of its Electric Bus Initiative to supply 15 Virginia school divisions with 50 of the school bus manufacturer’s Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley electric buses.
Dan Weekley, vice president of innovation policy and implementation at Dominion Energy, told SBF in January that the first 50 buses started rolling out in the fall of 2020, and that the company will continue to explore ways to expand its electric bus program. He also discussed fleet integration plans, cost and power savings from vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, and tips for partnering with a power company on electric bus integration.