Photo By: Thomas Hawker, Creative Commons
School districts in Michigan are eyeing another part of the Volkswagen settlement, the state’s portion of the VW National Mitigation Fund, to reduce their transportation emissions. Michigan is poised to receive $60.3M of this $2.7b fund, which will be overseen by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The funds are specifically targeted for replacement or conversion of vehicles and equipment that offset nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from the transportation sector.
The MDEQ released a draft plan for comments in early 2017, about half of the $60.3M was proposed for replacing school buses. Since then, several groups have been working with MI school districts to highlight the benefits of all-electric school buses.
As Midwest Energy News recently reported, benefits of electric school buses are environmental, economic, and health-related. The emissions from diesel school buses, which include NOx and other particulates, are especially harmful to children because they are still developing.
When it comes to the cost, there are some pros and cons. Many public school systems in Michigan are strapped for cash, and electric school buses are certainly not cheap. The transportation director of Zeeland Public Schools in west Michigan told Midwest Energy News that his school district has been interested in electric school buses for some time, but they have been too cost-prohibitive.
The settlement dollars from the state’s mitigation funds could help make EV buses more affordable for public school districts, bringing the cost of an electric bus down to the same price as a conventional one. This would create an economic incentive for school districts to invest in cleaner technologies for their students and communities as a whole.
The MDEQ is still waiting on a national trustee appointed to oversee the VW settlement funds to begin the official process. Until then, School Districts and advocacy groups will be working together to make the best case for electric school buses. The two stakeholders will be joining together for a demonstration at the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation Conference June 20-22 in Lansing, Michigan. The demonstration will feature an electric school bus for conference participants to learn about and ride in.