Schools in Thurston County will receive a combined six new electric buses thanks to grants from the Washington State Department of Ecology that were paid for by a recent state settlement with Volkswagen.
Twenty-two school districts statewide will receive 40 electric school buses in what’s being called one of the “largest investments in zero-emission school buses in the country,” according to a news release from Ecology.
“Children face the greatest risk from diesel pollution, and giving them cleaner transportation to school is a priority,” said Ecology Director Laura Watson. “These buses are an important first step toward helping every student in Washington start and end their days with an emission-free ride.”
Andrew Wineke, a spokesperson with Ecology, said three buses will be given to North Thurston Public Schools and the other three will be given to Olympia School District, two of the county’s most populous school districts.
Collectively, the two school districts will benefit from more than $1.5 million in electric school bus grants. Statewide, school districts will benefit from more than $11.94 million.
The 40 new buses will replace older transportation vehicles with 400,000 miles of zero-emission travel each year, and transport more than 3,000 students each day, Ecology says.
In 2018 and 2019, Ecology awarded similar grants to purchase 66 total electric vehicles.
Funding for this year’s grants comes from a statewide settlement with Volkswagen. The case involved the automobile manufacturer allegedly installing software on its diesel cars that activated emissions controls only when it detected the emissions were being tested, Ecology says.
This software change allowed vehicles to emit larger amounts of nitrous oxides into the air, breaking the state and federal Clean Air Acts.