Sic semper tyrannis. True to its motto, Virginia has dealt a death blow to the tyranny of diesel school buses. A few weeks ago, we highlighted some successful electric school bus V2G pilots, discussed the countless benefits, but lamented that we seemed to be stuck with one-off pilot projects involving just a handful of school buses. But now Virginia and utility Dominion Energy have delivered us salvation: They will be buying a minimum of 1,050 V2G electric school buses over the next five years. That single purchase dwarfs all others, and will serve as the catalyst for a nationwide fleet conversion by bringing down the upfront cost of electric school buses. It will also hopefully shame the rest of the US into ceasing purchases of child-poisoning diesel school buses. But it doesn’t end there.
In addition to Dominion’s monster purchase, a group of organized mothers in Virginia’s Fairfax County is using this moment to get their school district to go all-in. And if they can do it, your school district definitely can, because as it happens, Fairfax County Public Schools operates the second-largest school bus fleet in the US, with 1,625 diesel school buses. Fairfax County’s fleet has more buses than Greyhound, and the school bus fleet is second only to New York City. The moms have organized to replace all of them with electrics by 2025. Assuming Fairfax only gets, say, 200 of the Dominion buses, then that’s about 2,475 all electric buses headed for Virginia. WDVM-TV has an interview with the group, Mothers Out Front Fairfax.
Dominion Energy says it will select the electric school bus maker(s) by the end of November 2019. It will be exciting to see the competition between IC Bus (a subsidiary of Navistar), Thomas (Daimler), Bluebird, and the pure-electric school bus maker, Lion Electric.
Check out this clip of Virginian kids living the good life with their electric school buses, thanks to Dominion Energy:
Meanwhile, in New York City, residents are still pleading for even a pilot program. Council member Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn) had allocated $1.25 million to the NYC Department of Education, which was supposed to put five electric school buses into its fleet by the start of this school year. As yet, they have yet to even issue a purchase order. Espinal said the Department gave him no explanation as to why the electric buses are not in place. “This is something that should have been an easy ground ball,” said Espinal. “They had the money. They had the support. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t have been able to deliver (the buses).” Here is Adriana Espinoza of the New York League of Conservation Voters and Council member Espinal protesting the city’s delay last week:
Virginia delivered exactly the kind of breakout move we’ve been hoping for with electric school buses. In our previous article, Kevin Matthews of the Vehicle-to-Grid EV School Bus Initiative said that sustained, higher-volume purchase orders would enable school bus OEMs to further reduce the cost of V2G electric school buses, and then the switch to electric would be unstoppable. This makes sense, and so Virginia may go down in history as being the early adopter that took down the diesel school bus.
We’re not going to say that other states care less about their children (yet). It probably helped that Virginia Democratic governor Ralph Northam was a pediatric neurologist, and so would have a better understanding than most policy makers about the health effects of diesel exhaust on children. He was also apparently the one to insist on seatbelts for the buses. But we’re super excited and can’t wait to see who will be first to follow Virginia’s V2G electric school-bus lead.
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