Today, Governor Roy Cooper joined Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to unveil the first electric school bus in North Carolina and highlight the state’s transition to a clean energy economy. The purchase of this bus was made possible by an award from the NC Department of Environmental Quality using funds from the Volkswagen Emissions Settlement.
“This electric school bus is better for the environment and our children’s health, and it was made right here in North Carolina. That’s a win-win-win for our state,” Governor Cooper said. “The transition to clean transportation is critical in our fight against climate change and this new emission-free bus shows just how many opportunities for clean energy transitions there are in our everyday life.”
In addition to the dedication of the inaugural electric bus, EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced that the tribe has been awarded an EPA Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant to buy four all-electric school buses.
“We are grateful and excited for cooperation we have received from Governor Cooper and the Environmental Protection Agency in the effort to provide better and safer transportation for our school children,” Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Richard Sneed said. “We are confident that the new electric school busses will be an asset for the community for years to come.”
“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Cooper and Principal Chief Sneed, EPA and our partners are delivering on our mission to protect children’s health and the environment and hitting the accelerator on a clean transportation future through this investment in electric school buses,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “With an unprecedented $5 billion investment in low- and zero-emission school buses from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law coming soon for communities across the country, this is only the beginning.”
“At Thomas Built Buses, we’re extremely proud to deliver the first all-electric school bus in our own home state,” said Kevin Bangston, president and CEO, Thomas Built Buses. “Our company has deep roots here in North Carolina tracing back over 100 years. In that time, we’ve led the way in supplying reliable, quality buses to transport students to and from school, and we’re excited to continue to do so as we enter a new era of clean, sustainable, zero-emission transportation.”
“By demonstrating their commitment to electric school buses, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is modeling the leadership, innovation and partnership needed for the future of the Tribe and for our state,” said Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “This celebration is an example of what transformation-minded organizations can do when we work together. Duke Energy applauds the vision demonstrated today, and we stand ready to make electric buses a reality across North Carolina.”
“One electric school bus eliminates more than 23 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year and provides health benefits, especially for children,” said NC DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser. “The health and environmental benefits are the reason we are prioritizing electric school bus replacements with the remainder of the Volkswagen Settlement funding.”
This electric bus is part of a larger goal of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to buy at least 50% electric or hybrid vehicles when making new fleet purchases and install 20 electric vehicle charging stations on the Qualla Boundary and at tribal buildings by 2024. The tribe is also working to install electric vehicle chargers and install solar panels on residential homes.
The electric school bus was built by Thomas Built Buses, a bus company established in High Point. The purchase of this school bus was made possible through a VW grant administered by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality as part of the Volkswagen Settlement Phase 1 Mitigation Plan. The bus is the first of six electric school buses awarded in Phase 1 of the Volkswagen program. The application period for Volkswagen Phase 2 school bus replacement grants is open now through June 6, 2022 and includes $27 million available to replace diesel school buses with a goal of directing at least 50% of available funds toward electrification projects.
In January, Governor Cooper signed Executive Order No. 246 that directs the North Carolina Department of Transportation to work with public and private sectors to create a Clean Transportation Plan that will craft solutions for a cleaner and more resilient transportation system. The Order underscores the importance of emphasizing environmental justice and equity in the state’s transition to a clean economy.