BARRE, Vt. – Students in three Vermont school districts will soon be taking an eco-friendly ride to school after being selected for an electric bus pilot program.
The Barre Unified School District, Champlain Valley School District and Franklin West Supervisory District were chosen from a long list of applicants. They will each ditch one of their traditional buses in favor of the e-bus.
The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation teamed up on the effort, which is funded by Vermont’s legal settlement with Volkswagen for the automakers violations of the Clean Air Act.
Emily Boedecker, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, said it’s an opportunity to iron out issues and check out the benefits of electric transport on a small scale.
“It’s a question of what route to take, how hills and dirt roads affect the mileage and range of the buses,” Boedecker said. “We need to think about where the buses will be parked at night, where they’ll be charged.”
There’s also interest in monitoring how the buses handle a cold Vermont winter. Over the next few months, program leaders will be working with the three districts to purchase the buses, build charging infrastructure, and look at any other facility upgrades that might be needed.
If all goes well, VEIC’s director of clean transportation Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur thinks it could be the beginning of a larger electric shift.
“We hope that more people will get excited about it and that there will hopefully be some more funding sources to help in the early stages when vehicle costs are higher,” Wallace-Brodeur said. “It could help get more school districts and agencies into the technology.”
The three districts were chose from a long list of applicants because of their enthusiasm for the project. The Barre Unified School District plans to keep their bus outside the school where it will double as an educational tool. The Champlain Valley School District had a student project examining the connection between transportation and climate change. Lastly, Franklin West had, according to Boedecker, ‘many letters of support from drivers, teachers and schoolchildren.’