VW settlement funds spark string of North Carolina electrification projects

By EDF Blogs

By Michelle Allen
After years of legal and legislative wrangling at state and federal levels, the first round of Volkswagen settlement funds will soon begin to flow to grantees. Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Hendersonville), the General Assembly unanimously passed legislation in June to release $31 million to fund the first of a three-phase plan to utilize the state’s settlement allocation. The funds are part of the settlement Volkswagen agreed to after six years of deliberately programming vehicle models to deceive tailpipe inspectors by dramatically under representing their nitrogen oxide emissions — a pollutant linked to respiratory diseases and a key element for the formation of smog and acid rain.
The settlement dictated that allocated dollars only be spent on projects that reduce air pollution. In North Carolina, that first round of funds has been earmarked to replace the state’s oldest transit and school buses with a combination of improved efficiency and zero-emission models. Of the total $31 million, lawmakers also allocated $3.4 million to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the state.

Releasing these funds has been a long time coming, and the infusion of cash into the state comes as many North Carolinians need jobs and the work to rebuild our economy gets underway. Installation of statewide charging infrastructure will be particularly economically beneficial, generating work for local electricians and contractors who will be put to work implementing those projects.

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The allocation compliments the steps North Carolina is already taking to advance vehicle electrification. Work continues on plans to achieve the state’s goal of getting at least 80,000 zero-emission vehicles on North Carolina roads by 2025. And, the North Carolina Utilities Commission is currently considering an EV pilot program which, if approved, would help fund electric school buses and transit fleets, and could provide over $2 million in rebates for charging infrastructure.
In mid-July, North Carolina signed on as one of 15 states pledging action to collectively get hundreds of thousands of zero-emission trucks and buses on U.S. roads. It’s a practical approach: the bigger the vehicle, the greater the opportunity to reduce emissions through electrification. The faster this effort advances, the faster North Carolina can eliminate harmful pollution that not only contributes to climate change, but also diminishes our local air quality and is linked to respiratory and other illnesses. Electrifying buses and trucks is a huge boon to the manufacturing sector, too, spurring investment and innovation in North Carolina based facilities like Volvo, Siemens, Cree and ABB.
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