In Alexandria, parents may soon start seeing their children off to school knowing that their trips contribute to the sustainability of both the environment and their education institutions’ finances. That is, when an energy firm from Richmond delivers the first fleet of such vehicles to the city later this year.

Alexandria is part of a Dominion Energy program to replace the current diesel buses that transport children to schools across Virginia with those that rely on electricity.

The company will have kicked off the program with a total of 50 buses in 16 neighborhoods including parts of Alexandria by the end of 2020. And its fleet can grow up to 20 times as many vehicles in the following four years – however conditional on state legislators’ approval.

 

Thomas F. Farrell II

“This is an innovative, sustainable solution that will help the environment, protect children’s health, make the electric grid stronger, and free up money for our schools,” Thomas F. Farrell II, Dominion Energy’s chairman, president and CEO, said in a company statement.

 

“We are excited to move forward with our commitment to bringing the benefits of electric school buses to the customers and communities we serve.”

 

Complex Math Behind Benefits

The reality of electric vehicles (EVs) is more complex than a simple ‘electricity is better than fuel’ assumption. Their carbon footprints change not only from vehicle to vehicle but also from one region to another depending on multiple factors such as the mode of electricity generation and battery production. In regions with coal-intensive electricity generation, for instance, the benefits of EVs tend to be smaller.

Even weather might play a significant role in determining which type of energy would be better in certain regions, and not elsewhere.

Numerous studies, however, show that EVs are responsible for considerably lower greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime than typical conventional vehicles that have internal combustion engines. And as states decarbonize electricity generation to meet their climate targets, EVs will become even less harmful to the environment.

According to Dominion, the electric buses in Virginia “will provide environmental and health benefits through reduced emissions and reduce operation and maintenance costs for schools by up to 60 percent.”

Same Look, Different Energy 

The energy company has agreed with Thomas Built Buses for the manufacturing of traditional-looking school buses that will differently be equipped with batteries to work.

Their “vehicle-to-grid” technology will also leverage their batteries to store and inject energy onto the grid during periods of high demand.

The program’s ultimate goal is to replace all diesel school buses in the Commonwealth with electric buses by 2030.