Earlier this week, Sonny Merryman and Dominion Energy with partners Thomas Built Buses and Proterra hosted a grand rollout celebration to officially introduce Jouley to public school officials from across the state who soon be receiving the first buses as part of the Dominion Energy Electric School Bus Program.
The Dominion Energy Electric School Bus Program is the nation’s largest deployment of electric school buses. The program was developed to support school divisions as they transition their fleets to electric school buses while also providing environmental benefits and allowing Dominion Energy to explore battery storage capabilities of electric school buses to enhance electric grid reliability. A school division purchasing an electric school bus with traditional funding avenues could expect to pay 3x the amount of a similar diesel school bus. Through the Dominion Energy Electric School Bus Program, 50 electric school buses will be delivered to localities across Virginia at the same price of traditional diesel buses, as Dominion Energy will offset the extra cost for the buses and associated charging infrastructure.
The rollout celebration was held at Sonny Merryman – Virginia’s Bus Company – south of Lynchburg, VA. Other guests in attendance included representatives from Virginia Association of Pupil Transportation, Virginia Clean Cities, and the Virginia Department of Education along with several public officials. Keynote speakers featured Dan Weekley, Vice President of Energy Innovation Policy & Implementation of Dominion Energy, Caley Edgerly, President and CEO of Thomas Built Buses, and Floyd Merryman, President and CEO of Sonny Merryman.
The first Jouley electric buses to roll off the production line and will soon be delivered to Waynesboro City, Pittsylvania County, Fairfax County, and Alexandria City Public Schools were on display. To the surprise of some guests, the Jouley electric school buses appeared nearly undistinguishable from traditional diesel school buses. The buses are powered by two 110kWh Proterra batteries mounted between the chassis frame rails. Under the hood, where an engine is typically located, there’s really not much to see.
Many in attendance took a ride on Jouley and quickly noticed the lack of noise and silence that filled the cabin. It was a vastly different experience than the hum of a traditional diesel engine bus that often makes it difficult to carry on a conversation with your bus seatmate, much less for the driver to communicate with passengers. The Jouley electric bus is in fact so quiet that there are two noise emitters located in the front and rear bumpers that produce a sound similar to a train whistle to alert waiting students and pedestrians when the bus is approaching.
The first of the Jouley electric school buses will be delivered in early November. The remainder of the first 50 buses in phase one of the Dominion Energy Electric School Bus Program will be delivered throughout the fall/winter months, including to Virginia Beach City Public Schools.
“Virginia Beach City Public Schools is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the eight electric Thomas Built Buses with the Proterra powertrain,” said David Pace, Virginia Beach City Public Schools Executive Director of Transportation and Fleet Services. “This partnership with Dominion Energy and Sonny Merryman to integrate environmentally sound school buses into our fleet fits perfectly with the VBCPS sustainability goals and program. We are looking forward to a continued relationship in the future to place more electric Eco-Friendly school buses into service. These buses will provide the children of Virginia Beach with a greener way to get to and from school.”
With state approval, phase two of the Dominion Energy Electric School Bus Program would bring at least 1,000 additional electric school buses online by 2025. Once phase two is fully implemented, the buses’ batteries could provide enough energy to power more than 10,000 homes. Phase three sets a goal to have 50 percent of all diesel bus replacements in Dominion Energy’s footprint to be electric by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030.
“Jouley is the most exciting development in the North American pupil transportation industry since yellow paint,” said Floyd Merryman, President and CEO of Sonny Merryman. “Our team is thrilled to partner with Dominion Energy to bring transformative electric buses to Virginia’s public schools.”