NASHVILLE — The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority is getting a $1.88 million grant to help replace three diesel buses with all-electric transit buses as well as to pay for associated costs on charging infrastructure required to supply them with power.
The funding comes from one of three grants totaling $5.69 million from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Transit and Shuttle Bus Grant Program. The grants were awarded to three of the state's four largest cities as part of continuing efforts to cut nitrogen dioxide emissions.
It is one of two grant programs funded by the Volkswagen Diesel Settlement Environmental Mitigation Trust. The trust was created after the German auto manufacturer, which operates a vehicle assembly factory in Chattanooga, admitted in 2015 that it secretly and deliberately installed "defeat" devices — software designed to cheat emissions tests — on its diesel-powered vehicles and deceive federal and state regulators.
Following the scandal, VW announced plans to move toward electric vehicle production with an $800 million expansion to assemble electric vehicles in the U.S. at its Chattanooga plant.
Also receiving trust fund grant money for greener buses is the city of Knoxville/Knoxville Area Transit, which was awarded $1.69 million to support replacement of three diesel transit buses with three diesel-hybrid transit buses.
The Memphis Area Transit Authority will see $2.1 million to support replacement of three diesel transit buses with three all-electric transit buses and for the associated charging infrastructure.
"These grants will allow us to provide energy-efficient buses for transit systems in three of our largest communities, where mass transit is a key service," Gov. Bill Lee said in a news release. "These grants meet a need and meet the spirit of the settlement."
The money allows replacement of nine engine model year 2009 or older diesel transit buses with six all-electric and three diesel-hybrid transit buses. TDEC officials say doing that will cut air emissions by an estimated 17,000 pounds or 8.51 tons over the vehicles' lifespans.
All nine transit buses funded will operate 70% or more of the time in former non-attainment areas for federal guidelines for ozone and/or fine particulate matter pollution. The buses collectively will travel more than 400,000 miles a year.
In 2019, TDEC awarded more than $8.38 million from the VW settlement funding to 37 grantees to support school bus replacement projects across Tennessee. TDEC is the lead agency for administering the state's VW Settlement allocation.