Electric vehicle owners, climate activists and residents gathered Saturday morning at the Environment Virginia Electric Vehicle Showcase to discuss the future of transportation and how Fairfax County can lead the state in the transition to EVs.
The event, in front of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, gave people the opportunity to experience electric vehicles firsthand, and learn about how other types of electric vehicles on display – including a transit bus and electric bicycles – could be deployed in their communities.
“We have to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible if we’re going to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Electrifying cars, buses and trucks, and facilitating alternative modes of transportation like walking and biking is a central part of achieving that goal,” said Joe Rupp, climate advocate with Environment Virginia. “Fairfax has the resources to lead this transition more effectively than any other jurisdiction in the state.”
Virginia has recently taken steps to transition to electric buses. In June, Gov. Ralph Northam announced over $12 million in VW settlement funding for electric transit bus pilot projects in three cities. Dominion Energy announced the largest electric school bus initiative to date in the country and weeks later, Gov. Northam followed suit, announcing $20 million (also from the VW settlement) for electric school buses.
“When I first started thinking about myself as a climate activist, I saw this is a separate role from what I do on a daily basis, which is seeing and caring for sick patients,” said Dr. Neelu Tummala, a Fairfax County-based physician and George Washington University professor who spoke at the event. “But as I learned more and read papers about how the climate crisis affects our health, my interests as a climate activist became one and the same as my interests as a physician — to protect the health of my patients, my friends, and my family.”
The transportation sector is the biggest contributor of carbon emissions in Virginia, accounting for 45.5 percent of all global-warming emissions in 2016.
“Fairfax County needs to develop a plan within the next year to pilot electric school and transit buses and they need a roadmap to transition the entire school bus and Fairfax Connector fleet and all county-owned passenger cars to electric,” said Rupp.
“Breathing clean air is not a prescription that any physician can write. That is why we must take action, all of us,” said Dr. Tummala.
Some Fairfax County leaders already recognize this importance and have begun addressing this issue.
“The Fairfax County School Board is committed to environmental and fiscal stewardship, including conversion to renewable energy,” said Pat Hynes, current Fairfax County Public Schools board member. “With the largest school bus fleet in Virginia, and one of the ten largest in the nation, we have an opportunity to lead in adopting EV technology for transportation. The children we serve deserve clean air now, and a livable climate for the future.”