Volkswagen Mitigation Trust to support deployment of zero-emission buses

More than $12 million in state funding will be allocated to deploy electric transit buses in three Virginia localities, using nearly $9 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust (VW Trust) that the Commonwealth received as part of its settlement with Volkswagen.

In total, 17 electric buses and charging infrastructure will be deployed by local transit systems in Alexandria, Blacksburg, and Hampton Roads.

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The $9 million from the VW Trust will be augmented by $3.5 million from the statewide transit capital program, as well as another $6.5 million in federal and local funds. This allocation is part of a commitment announced last fall of $14 million in VW Trust funding for electric transit buses. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will make the remaining $5 million of the $14 million initial allocation available for electric transit buses for next year’s transit grant cycle, which will open on December 1, 2019.

“Electric buses are a key component of Virginia’s strategy to address the climate crisis, reduce air pollution in our communities, and drive innovation across the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Ralph Northam. “We are demonstrating how entrepreneurs, government, and industry partners are coming together to implement the best renewable energy technologies available and power the clean economy.”

Last week at its meeting in Richmond, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved the Fiscal Year 2020–2025 Six-Year Improvement Program, which allocates funding for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). DRPT is working closely with DEQ, the designated lead agency implementing Virginia’s VW Trust allocation, and the Virginia Department of General Services (DGS) on this important initiative to accelerate the transition to a cleaner transportation system for all.

Recipients of VW Trust and statewide transit capital funding include*:

  • Alexandria (DASH): $5.1 million for six battery-electric transit buses and fast chargers
  • Blacksburg Transit: $3.3 million for five battery-electric transit buses and fast chargers
  • Hampton Roads Transit: $3.9 million for six battery-electric transit buses and fast chargers

* Funding amounts are approximate.

Following a comprehensive review and analysis of all funding requests by DRPT and DEQ, these buses were identified for replacement using DRPT’s Making Efficient and Responsible Investments in Transit (MERIT) project prioritization process. Funding recipients must purchase the electric buses and place them into service within two years.

With savings from lower fuel and maintenance costs consistent with electric vehicles of all types, using electric buses will also reduce operational costs for transit agencies. The typical useful life of a transit bus is twelve years. By investing in electric buses, over that time, these transit agencies will, combined, eliminate the need for approximately 2 million gallons of diesel fuel and avoid 612,000 tons of carbon emissions and 129,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide emissions.

“This investment in high-efficiency vehicles raises the profile of transit as a smart, environmentally sustainable travel choice and helps power a 21st-century multimodal transportation system that is the platform for Virginia’s economy,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine.

A 2018 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists rated Virginia as one of the best places for electric buses based on carbon emission, with electric buses producing less than half of the climate pollution of diesel or natural gas buses. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified diesel exhaust from sources such as transit buses as a major factor in the urban air pollution that disproportionately affects low-income and disadvantaged communities. Electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions and provide clean air benefits to communities that have historically borne a greater burden from fossil fuel pollution.

“Transitioning high usage, low efficiency bus fleets from diesel to electric is a critically important step toward reducing carbon pollution in the transportation sector,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “This funding makes it easier for three key transit agencies to begin making that switch and help us meet our clean air goals.”

DRPT and DGS are establishing a joint public procurement process to add electric transit buses to the statewide bus contract. Statewide procurement of these critical assets will decrease administrative and contract costs for transit agencies and expedite the procurement of electric buses.

The $93.6 million the Commonwealth was awarded as its share of the Volkswagen settlement has provided a unique opportunity to make catalytic investments in transportation electrification. Last fall, Governor Northam announced that the Commonwealth of Virginia would invest a portion of the VW Trust to replace older diesel transit buses with battery electric transit buses through a new Clean Transportation Voucher Program implemented through DRPT’s annual public transportation capital grant cycle known as MERIT. This follows an earlier award of $14 million to EVgo to build a high-powered electric vehicle charging network across the Commonwealth. EVgo and DEQ broke ground on the first of those stations last month.



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