FCPS moves ahead with plan to introduce electric buses


Photo courtesy of Sonny Merryman

On October 27, 2020, officials from Thomas Built Buses, Dominion Energy, and dealer Sonny Merryman presented one of Virginia’s first electric school buses as part of the initiative.

James Ye, Staff Writer

In January last year, FCPS announced that they had received funding as part of Dominion Energy’s sustainability initiative for Virginia schools.  The purpose of this initiative is to help reduce carbon emissions, promote clean and sustainable energy, and to reduce operation and maintenance costs. After a competitive application process, FCPS was selected to purchase eight of the 50 electric buses that would be distributed across the state. The plan ensures that Dominion Energy will cover the difference in costs, so that the school does not pay more for electric buses than they would for diesel.

One year later, FCPS received its first electric bus on January 12th; the rest arrived by the end of January. FCPS expects that these electric buses will be used to transport students by April.

Elena Rangelov, a junior and officer of the Environmental Science Club, approves of the action FCPS has taken in moving forward with its plan.

“As one of the largest and wealthiest US counties, it’s crucial [that] FCPS set[s] a good example for its students, staff, and the rest of the nation – introducing electric buses is a very effective way to show that we’re active in the battle against climate change. I think the decision to start switching to using cleaner energy in our buses is a great one, especially considering how many students in Fairfax use bus transportation under normal circumstances,” Rangelov said.

Sahaj Vederey, a senior and officer at Anglers Alliance, a club that focuses on the health of marine environments, recognizes that county officials took many factors into consideration with this new policy.

“We have to think about charging stations that need to be set up around schools, we need to think about training for the bus drivers and also the maintenance. These buses aren’t mainstream; you can’t just go to a mechanic and get it done. I think it’s gonna be way more complicated. Of course, we need to test it out in the first place,” Vederey said.

Vederey agrees the new FCPS initiative is a significant advance in environmental conservation, but he also thinks that there are other improvements that FCPS could be making in order to meet its green energy goals.

“When it comes to energy, I don’t only think about buses, but also about actual energy from the schools and the buildings as well. What kind of light bulbs are we using? [What] is the heating like in the winter time? All these different things are really important, and of course, transportation is one of them,” Vederey said.

Despite the work that still needs to be done, Rangelov believes that it is a step in the right direction by helping make a statement and introducing an alternative to fossil fuels.

“It’s worth noting that Virginia in particular, unfortunately, gets much of its electricity from non-renewable sources, which means that electric buses and electric cars don’t have as great of an impact on diminishing carbon emissions as they could. However, I still believe it’s critical that we start using electric buses – both because it’s symbolic and because every little improvement counts! Fairfax needs to start stepping in to combat the climate crisis, and other counties will follow suit,” Rangelov said.