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'Our children’s future is at stake': Local advocates call for federal investment in clean transportation

Electric bus.jpg
Posted at 4:54 PM, Jul 22, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Buses are bare across the 757, but transportation is at the top of mind for many.

Del. Nancy Guy (HD-83) and Sen. Jennifer McClellan (SD-9) joined together with environmental and public health advocates to call for strong federal investments in clean transportation infrastructure.

Kim Sudderth with Mothers Out Front said, "We don't want to send our children to school on a bus that spews toxic carcinogens and aggravate asthma."

Instead, Sudderth - along with the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Moms Clean Air Force and Mothers Out Front - is pushing to get students on all electric, zero-emission school buses.

Sen. McClellan said, "I think that now is the time to act on climate change - not just the energy, but transportation, and we have an opportunity to do that. If we can make that ride safer for [our kids], cleaner for them and address climate change at the same time, then I'm going to show up."

According to 2019 data from the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for about 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Supporters said the switch from diesel to electric will shrink that statistic and reduce the effects of climate change.

When looking at an electric bus, you will see there isn't an engine or transmission. That's because it has an electric motor, which is powered by the batteries found underneath the bus.

"What we're finding on electric school buses is about a 60 to 80% reduction in maintenance costs on an annual basis," said Albert Burleigh with the Blue Bird Corporation. "Typically, this bus goes about 100 to 120 miles. Now, the typical school bus rides about 80 miles per day - including the morning, the afternoon - so really, you can go a full day and not have to charge it until the night time."

Hampton Roads Transit has also reported seeing benefits after adding electric buses to their fleet.

However, purchasing an electric bus is expensive. The HRT buses came at a price tag of $1 million each.

Electric school buses can cost upwards of $400,000, which more than three times the cost of a diesel-fueled traditional school bus.

Thursday's conversation continued on while President Biden's infrastructure plan ping-ponged on Capitol Hill.

"As they go through the negotiating process, as a freshman legislator, I know somethings disappear. Let's make sure this isn't one of the things that disappears," said Del. Guy. "In order to make it really happen here, we're going to need to turn to a bold funding initiative at the federal, state and local levels."