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MPCA seeks southern Minnesota schools for pilot bus project

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency launched a pilot grant project for electric school buses that will support cleaner vehicle technology and reduce harmful air pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions, according to a press release. The program is another step toward achieving Minnesota’s goal of reducing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050.

MPCA plans to invest up to $3 million from the Volkswagen settlement to encourage owners of diesel-powered school buses to replace them with new electric models. Replacing one diesel bus with an electric model can reduce GHG emissions by at least 29 tons, or the equivalent of removing six passenger vehicles from Minnesota roads, the release stated. Currently, there is one electric school bus in Minnesota, serving the Lakeville Public School District.

“Our children deserve clean air and a better climate,” said MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop. “This innovative pilot will make cleaner bus technology more accessible for schools, and provide valuable information about how we can continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota. If the pilot is successful, our goal is to make more of these smart investments in the future.”

With the new program, Minnesota will be the first state in the Midwest to implement a pilot project that will gather data and information about the buses’ performance and reliability. The MPCA hopes to fund at least six new electric school buses across the state, with one or two projects in each of four regions: northern Minnesota, central Minnesota, the seven-county Twin Cities metro area and southern Minnesota. Lessons learned from the pilot project will inform future electric school bus projects.

“Minnesota’s public school boards have always focused on a better future for our children,” said Kirk Schneidawind, executive director of the Minnesota School Board Association. “Electric buses that save our environment are part of that better future. The MPCA’s grant program can help move schools to a better way of transporting students.”

The MPCA will grant successful applicants up to $275,000 or 75% of the total project cost, whichever is less. Total project cost includes both the vehicle and charging station. The agency anticipates that the funded buses would begin transporting Minnesota students in fall 2022.

Through public engagement around the VW settlement program and the MPCA/MnDOT Pathways project, the MPCA heard widespread support for cleaner, lower carbon transportation options that would protect children and improve local air quality, according to the release. The project could also benefit communities of color and lower-income areas, which are disproportionately affected by vehicle emissions.

Minnesotans interested in cleaner air should encourage their school leaders to apply for this new pilot project, the release stated.

Applications are due no later than 4:30 p.m. Oct. 13. See the project web page for full details and information that will help applicants submit a proposal.