North Carolina Awards Schools $30M for Clean Buses

Image: Canva/Gov. Roy Cooper

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is distributing more than $30.1 million from the state’s Volkswagen Settlement Program for 161 clean school buses.

“Today is a good day for the health and pocketbooks of North Carolinians as we continue on our path to clean transportation,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “Transitioning to cleaner school buses reduces greenhouse gas emissions, lowers costs to our schools, creates great manufacturing jobs, and reduces pollution in our poorer communities.”

According to a news release, the new zero- and low-emission school buses will replace some of the dirtiest diesel buses in the state, “including some older than 30 years that emit more than 20 times the nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter of today’s clean buses."

Said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser: “Switching to new low- and zero-emission school buses has immediate public health benefits for the children who ride them and improves air quality in our communities.”

The new buses are expected to reduced NOx emissions by 126 tons over their combined lifetimes. More than $16.5 million will fund 43 electric school buses and associated charging infrastructure.

Grant recipients include public, charter, and tribal schools in 84 North Carolina counties. Most of the buses, 130, are going to rural counties. Of those, 80 school buses are awarded to schools in 37 historically under-resourced counties targeted by DEQ for extra outreach and support during the application process.

As clean buses are ordered and delivered, the old school buses will be destroyed.

Kevin Bangston, president and CEO of Thomas Built Buses - based in High Point, N.C. - praised the governor's announcement: "We applaud Gov. Cooper's continued support of North Carolina's transition to a clean energy economy through the allocation of additional funding from DEQ. Replacing old diesel buses with emission-free electric, newer clean diesel, and other alternative-fueled vehicles furthers our mission of providing sustainable, lower-emission transportation options for kids, drivers, and communities in our home state."

Recipients of the school transportation grants and their replacement school bus types include:

  • Alexander County Schools (Diesel)
  • Anson County Schools (Diesel)
  • Beaufort County Schools (Diesel)
  • Caldwell County Schools (Electric)
  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (Electric)
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (Electric)
  • Chatham County Schools (Diesel)
  • Cherokee County Schools (Diesel)
  • Clay County Schools (Diesel)
  • Cleveland County Board of Education (Diesel)
  • Duplin County Schools (Diesel)
  • Edenton-Chowan Schools Board of Education (Diesel)
  • Graham County Schools (Diesel)
  • Haliwa Saponi Tribal School (Diesel)
  • Johnston County Public Schools (Electric)
  • Lenoir County Public Schools (Electric)
  • Northampton County Schools (Diesel)
  • N.C. Department of Public Instruction (Electric/Diesel/Propane)
  • Old Main STREAM Academy Inc. (Electric)
  • Perquimans County Schools (Diesel)
  • Person County Board of Education (Diesel)
  • Polk County Schools (Diesel)
  • Public Schools of Robeson County (Diesel)
  • Reaching All Minds Academy (Electric)
  • Rockingham County Schools (Diesel)
  • Rowan-Salisbury Schools (Diesel)
  • Rutherford County Schools (Diesel)
  • Sampson County Schools (Diesel)
  • Surry County School System (Electric)
  • Washington County Board of Education (Diesel)
  • Yadkin County Public Schools (Diesel)
  • Yancey County Schools (Diesel)

The DEQ’s Division of Air Quality received 42 applications seeking more than $58 million for more than 330 clean school buses. The selection committee fully or partially funded at least one requested bus from each county that applied.

The state also awarded more than $1 million in Volkswagen Settlement funds to state agencies to install Level 2 zero-emission vehicle charging infrastructure. These 103 charging ports are set for installation at 25 sites, including state parks, museums, aquariums, government office buildings, universities, and community colleges.