Vermont students head back to school on electric buses

October 28, 2021 – As Vermont students headed back to school, some of them enjoyed a quieter, cleaner ride on the first electric school buses to be used in Vermont. State officials, clean energy proponents, elected officials, and educators gathered at Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax today to commemorate this milestone toward decarbonizing transportation in Vermont.

Champlain Valley School District and Franklin West Supervisory Union each welcomed two new electric school buses in time for the start of the school year. Student Transportation of America in partnership with the Barre Unified Union School District anticipate their buses will arrive in November and look forward to the educational opportunities the buses will provide for students.

The buses are part of the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund pilot to test how electric school buses work in Vermont. After being selected through a competitive process, the participating schools worked with ANR and VEIC to select electric bus and charging equipment vendors. The buses that arrived in July and August came from Blue Bird and The Lion Electric Company.

“The tenth anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene, and the devastation wrought by it and other more-localized but equally intense storms reminds us that the impacts of climate change are already being felt and will get far worse if we don’t make progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” said Julie Moore, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. “Electrification of Vermont’s school bus fleet is a critical component of addressing transportation emissions but switching to electric buses will require new and different fleet management. This pilot program will help us and schools across the state understand how to make this transition effectively. Our school communities, students, teachers, and administrators are ready to lead. I am pleased to partner with VEIC to give them the tools to do so.”

As the program administrator, VEIC supported ANR and the partners through initial selection to the purchase and deployment of the buses. With the buses on the roads, VEIC will undertake a year of tracking and evaluation to learn more about their performance. VEIC will also provide technical assistance to project partners as needed. 

“Electric buses are the future,” said Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, Director of Clean Transportation at VEIC. “Each student that rides to school on an electric bus this year will get to see firsthand the benefits of electric transportation. We are excited to spend the next year learning alongside the school districts about how these buses work in Vermont.”

Students, community members and bus drivers will see an immediate benefit from the electric buses as they start their routes this fall. Electric buses emit fewer greenhouse gas, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions than their diesel counterparts. They are also quieter, improving the quality of the ride for all passengers.

"We are beyond excited to add electric busses to our fleet,” said Justin Brown, Grades 5-8 Principal at Bellows Free Academy, which is part of the Franklin West Supervisory Union. “The support we have received from our students, families, staff and community has been overwhelmingly positive.  As a school that actively incorporates the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development into our curriculum, staff and students are able to apply our learning in a meaningful real-world context both through the data collected through this project, as well as through reducing our carbon footprint each day these busses are on the road. We all hope this paves the way for more green transportation in our (and our kids') future."

“The CVSD community prides itself on being a leader in sustainable practices,” said Jeanne Jensen, COO at Champlain Valley School District. “These buses allow us to not only transport students more safely and efficiently, but to make a concrete example of how we live up to our values.  We are confident that we are educating a whole cohort of future EV consumers.” 

Over the life of a bus, participating schools might save as much as $36,000 in fuel costs compared to a diesel bus. Annual greenhouse gas emissions for the buses will be approximately 97% lower than diesel buses.