Electric bus

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, each electric bus that replaces a diesel-powered bus will remove 29 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the environment. (Photo courtesy of Great Plains Institute)

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced Wednesday that it was investing $3 million in six electric school buses that will be used and monitored in various Minnesota communities.

The agency said school districts or bus companies selected for the pilot project will receive funding for most of the cost of a bus and charging station, with plans to have the vehicles operating by the fall of 2022.

Just one electric school bus in state now

“This project offers a unique opportunity for us to learn about how this technology operates,” MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop said, noting that only one electric school bus is in regular operation in Minnesota, in the Lakeville School District.

Bishop made the announcement on the steps of the Capitol, in front of that sole electric bus and flanked by state Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Bishop also said Minnesota was the first state in the Midwest to launch a project that will gather information about the performance of electric buses.

Electric school buses are needed for two main reasons, Bishop said: to clean up the air in the neighborhoods where buses operate and to protect the health of the children who ride them.

Kelliher said a priority for the Transportation Department is the “de-carbonization” of the transportation sector, noting that vehicles collectively are an even larger emitter of greenhouse gases than energy utilities.

One bus to save 29 tons of greenhouse gas emissions

According to the MPCA, each electric bus that replaces a diesel-powered bus will remove 29 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the environment (about the amount emitted by six cars), helping the state meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

To fund the project, the agency is using money from the state’s share of a $2.9 billion settlement the federal government reached in 2016 with Volkswagen over the German car maker’s violation of emissions standards.

School districts and bus companies are eligible for the program. Those selected to receive funding will get $275,000 or 75 percent of the project cost, whichever is less, the agency said. The money will be distributed in four regions of Minnesota – northern, central, southern and Twin Cities – with one or two projects funded in each area.

“To make smart investments in electric school bus technology, we need to know more about their range, reliability and overall performance in different parts of Minnesota,” Bishop said.

Applications must be received by Oct. 13.

Gregg Aamot is a longtime Minnesota journalist and college instructor.

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