TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — The University of Alabama plans to transition a portion of its Crimson Ride fleet over to electric buses in the near future.

With nearly $8 million in federal transit funds, UA will replace a quarter of its transit system buses with electric buses, reducing emissions and further positioning UA and the region as a hub for the electric vehicle ecosystem.

UA student Brooke Lewellen supports the project.

“For somebody who takes the bus three or four times a day, it helps that they are going to make something more efficient,” Lewellen said. “As an environmental science major, I am going to want something that will help the planet either way because we have to live we have to have a planet to live on.”

James Knickrehm is the Associate Director of Transportation Services. He says electric buses on campus will be a game changer.

“We are going to be training people how to work on these vehicles and drive these vehicles. It is really exciting,” Knickrehm said. “The initial plan is for eight buses. We have to build a maintenance facility and get some charging stations up. Then, we have to get the drivers trained because there is a difference in how the vehicles operate.”

The $10 million project, which includes $2 million in matching funds from UA, also involves installing electric charging infrastructure for the eight new Crimson Ride buses. UA will also work with Shelton State Community College to train workers to service the buses, as part of a workforce development initiative to ready Alabamians for the emerging, well-paying electric vehicle industry and infrastructure.

Dr. Bharat Balasubramanian from the UA College of Engineering says the initiative not only plays a role in helping to reduce emissions, but the research and workforce development components, in partnership with industry, strengthen UA and the Tuscaloosa area in becoming a hub for electric vehicles.

“This is fantastic a dream for us come true and this is only the first stage,” Balasubramanian said. “We are planning a stage 2 and 3 to get additional buses and ultimately we want to convert the entire Crimson Ride to electric buses.”

Crimson Ride buses give about 2 million rides annually to the campus community, including stops off campus and service on football game days. Knickrehm tells CBS 42 that the new eight electric buses could be phased into the fleet in the next two years.