It’s electric: Virginia’s yellow school buses going green

Dominion Energy CEO Thomas Farrell and Governor Ralph Northam, right, sit on one of Virginia's first 50 electric school buses. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Dominion Energy CEO Thomas Farrell and Governor Ralph Northam sit on one of Virginia’s first 50 electric school buses. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
There’s a bold plan in Virginia to turn its school buses green: Dominion Energy announced plans to replace diesel school buses with electric ones.

Like thousands of Virginia kids, Governor Ralph Northam boarded a school bus this week, but his ride is better than those the students take to and from class — it’s electric.

“These buses will be quieter, more efficient. They are safer. They have seat belts,” Northam said while on board the electric yellow bus with a green bumper.

The governor is supporting Dominion Energy’s plan to replace the state’s 13,000 school buses with electric models by 2030.

Phase one of the plan starts with 50 electric buses. The contract goes to bid next week and company CEO and president Thomas Farrell said the goal is to have placed 1,000 of the new buses on road within five years.

They’ll start by working with school districts in Northern Virginia, Central Virginia and the Hampton Roads area.

Dominion is offering to pay school districts the difference between the cost of a diesel bus and that of an energy-efficient electric bus, as well as set up the charging stations where they are stored between runs.

“Where they are locally in garages, and parking lots, we can take that electricity back and put it on the grid,” Farrell said.

Farrell referenced a study that found replacing one diesel bus with an electric model can save a school district $700 a month in gas and maintenance costs.

A single school bus gets about six miles to the gallon and can create as much carbon monoxide as five cars, according to data provided by Dominion Energy. Air quality inside the bus is often more harmful than it is outside the bus, Farrell said.

“When they sit there, the diesel fumes can pour into the bus. We can get rid of all of that. So it’s going to be much healthier for the kids and the drivers, save the school systems money [and] reduce their carbon footprint. It’s better for everybody.”

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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