With a full bus of students, legislators, local leaders and reporters, Gov. Jay Inslee rode in the first electric school bus in Washington on Monday, making a lap around a Tacoma block and ending up in the Franklin Pierce High School stadium.
The event launched efforts to help school districts curb carbon emissions by purchasing electric school buses. It also served as a promising start to the recent clean transportation bill that Inslee signed that encourages Washingtonians to integrate electric driving on the roads.
“In Washington, we’re electrifying planes, trains, ferries and automobiles,” Inslee said. “And today, we’re showing we can electrify buses, too. It’s exciting to celebrate the first electric school bus in Washington state, because this effort is, ultimately, all about our kids and their future.”
Monday’s ribbon cutting ceremony marked FPS as a school district leader in green transportation. A full electric charge can power the bus to travel 120 miles.
The school received the bus funding from The TransAlta Centralia Coal Transition Grants Energy Technology Board, according to a Franklin Pierce Schools press release. The board awarded two grants to the district. One awarded $330,155 to purchase Washington State’s first electric school bus. The other awarded $65,858 to install a 20-kilowatt Washington-made solar electricity generation system at Keithley Middle School.
Robin Heinrichs, Franklin Pierce Schools executive director of support services, said electric buses are about reducing operating costs and air pollution without sacrificing performance.
Heinrichs said they consume more than 100,000 gallons in diesel fuel each year for the bus fleet. So, transitioning completely to electric buses would significantly reduce air pollution in that area.
“This is a win however you look at it,” Heinrichs said. “Electric vehicles just make sense given our limited geographic size of the district and the patterns of use for our vehicles.”
But schools aren’t the only group clearing the way for cleaner buses on roads.
The Washington State Department of Ecology will invest $13.3 million to help several local transit agencies purchase dozens of zero emission, battery-powered electric buses. This will more than double the number of electric buses currently on Washington roads. The $13 million comes from the money Volkswagen paid the state because of a recent settlement. Transit agencies can also use the funding to pay for charging stations.
The buses will eliminate 68,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 70 tons over the lifetime of the vehicles.
Washington is also providing $12 million more (from Volkswagen penalty funds) for low-emission school buses, as well as $9.4 million for another 19 electric transit buses.
The transition to zero emission vehicles is a key aspect in Washington’s fight against climate change. Washington is already among the top states for consumer adoption of electric vehicles, and the state is on track to meet the governor’s goal of 50,000 electric vehicles on Washington roads by 2020, but transportation remains the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Washington’s electric vehicles initiatives are among the most aggressive in the nation. They place Washington among the top states for electric vehicles and electric vehicle infrastructure.
The state is also providing funding and incentives to help agencies switch to electric buses and electric charging stations, and purchase electric paratransit buses for the elderly and people with disabilities.
The event celebrates the governor’s clean transportation law that accomplishes three key things: One, it establishes a state incentive program to make new and used electric vehicles more affordable and accessible for consumers of varying incomes. Two, it helps utilities make large-scale investments in vehicle charging stations, other infrastructure and rebates. And, three, it creates a new grant program to help transit agencies electrify their fleets. An electric vehicle car-sharing program for low-income and rural communities will extend the benefits of electric vehicles.
The electric bus — one of many — accelerate Washington’s transition to clean, electric transportation, reducing not only carbon pollution but conventional air pollutants as well.
“The boys and girls who will ride this bus to school every day are counting on us to protect their air and their planet from the worsening impacts of carbon pollution,” Inslee said. “This bus — the first of thousands — is a perfect example of what climate action looks like.”