(WFXR) — As the summer winds down in Southwest Virginia and as parents and kids start prepping for back-to-school, WFXR is bringing you stories that will affect schools in our area.

From 2022 to 2026, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‘s (EPA) Clean Bus Program will be providing $5 billion dollars, nationally, to replace current diesel buses with low-emission or zero-emission ones. This comes after a bipartisan infrastructure law, which led the agency to ask schools for rebate applications.

Back in September 2022, some schools were given a rebate to replace their diesel buses with clean electric buses. Here is a list of the schools in Southwest Virginia that have been selected through the EPA’s generated lottery system:

  • Lynchburg City Public Schools
  • Carroll County Public Schools
  • Wise County Public Schools
  • Grayson County Public Schools
  • Charlotte County Public Schools
  • Floyd County Public Schools
  • Galaz City Public Schools
  • Nelson County Public Schools

WFXR spoke with the agency providing the rebate as well as Lynchburg City and Floyd County Public Schools who are receiving funding for the buses. School leaders say the rebate will help with transportation throughout the school year.

“Ensures the happiness and healthiness of our school environment for our students, as well as provides opportunities to learn about electrification of our fleet vehicles,” said Reid Wodicka, Deputy Superintendent for Operations and Strategic Planning for Lynchburg City Public Schools.

Officials with the EPA gave a set amount to each school, giving the school districts the opportunity to choose which manufacturer they would purchase a bus from. Transportation experts with Lynchburg City Schools say on average, an electric bus can cost around $400,000 to $420,000.

The school district was awarded funding for 25 buses with $375,000 given toward each bus — the rebate coving the majority of the costs. Lynchburg City School officials said they expect their buses to arrive sometime in February. Once necessities like bus cameras are added, the buses should be in operation around late March or early April.

Floyd County Public Schools received funding for two buses, as well as the chargers and installation of those charges. Floyd County School Officials expect their buses to arrive sometime in December.

“We have a large county, so our buses get a large amount of miles on them. And, we are appreciative of any opportunity we have to get some funding to help us replace our buses,” said Jessica Cromer, Superintendent for Floyd County Public Schools.

Electric school buses are relatively new to the southwest Virginia region, however, experts with both the schools and the EPA say they should be able to handle the terrain.

“As far as hills go, it’s not that big of a deal with electric buses due to regenerative braking, which means as you’re breaking or going downhill, you’re building up power in your battery,” said Hope Watts, Director of Transportation with Lynchburg City Public Schools.

As for the long-term maintenance cost, the EPA believes schools may be able to save compared to long-term diesel bus maintenance.

“It’s possible for a school to save money on energy and energy use as electricity prices tend to fluctuate over time and they’re not as expensive as diesel prices,” said Michelle Moyer, Environment Scientist and US EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Clean School Bus Team Lead.

Additionally, experts say battery life does depend on many things including the amount of braking and temperature. Experts with the schools say they will begin taking data on the battery life once they receive the buses. In the meantime, both Floyd County and Lynchburg City school districts are confident that a single charge will be able to get the buses through their routes.

For schools that may not have received the rebate, the EPA is accepting and encouraging applications for the Clean Bus Program’s 2023 grant, which closes on August 22, 2023. Moyer shared there is going to be future rebate funding in the fall of 2023 as well.

Moyer says schools can find resources for information about electric buses from the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation and the National Renewable Laboratory. To find more information about the grant and how many buses each school has been granted for the upcoming school year, click here.