Dominion launches electric school bus program
A total of 50 buses to be distributed through first phase
Earlier this week, Richmond-based Dominion Energy Inc. and Evington-based bus dealer Sonny Merryman Inc. rolled out the first Jouley electric school buses as part of the Dominion Energy Electric School Bus Program.
“Once again, Virginia is leading the way in promoting electric vehicle technology and improving our environment,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “This innovative electric school bus program is one of many steps we are taking to make electric vehicles accessible to all Virginians, and we look forward to working with Dominion as they bring electric school buses to communities in all corners of our commonwealth.”
Through the first stage of the program, 50 electric school buses will be delivered to Virginia localities at the same price of traditional diesel buses, with Dominion Energy offset the additional cost for the buses and associated charging infrastructure. The first school systems to receive the buses will be Charles City, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Loudoun, Louisa, Middlesex, Pittsylvania and Prince William counties, as well as Alexandria, Chesapeake, Hampton, Virginia Beach and Waynesboro.
“Jouley is the most exciting development in the North American pupil transportation industry since yellow paint,” Floyd Merryman, president and CEO of Sonny Merryman, said in a statement. “Our team is thrilled to partner with Dominion Energy to bring transformative electric buses to Virginia’s public schools.”
High Point, North Carolina-based bus manufacturer Thomas Built Buses and Proterra, a Burlingame, California-based electric bus designer and manufacturer, also partnered with Dominion and Sonny Merryman on the project. Built by Thomas Built Buses, the buses are powered with Proterra batteries. Sonny Merryman is an exclusive dealer of Thomas Built Buses.
“Virginia Beach City Public Schools is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the eight electric Thomas Built Buses with the Proterra powertrain,” David Pace, Virginia Beach City Public Schools executive director of transportation and fleet services, said in a statement. “We are looking forward to a continued relationship in the future to place more electric eco-friendly school buses into service. These buses will provide the children of Virginia Beach with a greener way to get to and from school.”
Aside from the environmental benefit of using electricity over diesel fuel, the electric buses can be used as portable batteries, and when not in use, can be tapped as an energy resource through vehicle-to-grid technology. Batteries can provide stability to the grid when energy demands are high. Batteries can also serve as mobile power stations in times of power outages or emergencies.
“From the environmental benefits of cleaner air, to the cost savings for school districts, to making our electric grid stronger through energy storage technology, this program is a win-win-win for the customers and communities we serve,” Dan Weekley, Dominion Energy vice president of innovation policy and development, said in a statement.
With state approval, Phase 2 of the program would deploy at least 1,000 additional electric school buses by 2025 — with the goal of Phase 3 to have 50% of all diesel bus replacements in Dominion Energy’s footprint to be electric by 2025 and 100% by 2030.