With a new commitment to fighting climate change, the U.S. government recently announced an aggressive clean energy goal: “a 50% to 52% reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas [GHG] pollution in 2030.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 28% of the GHG emissions in the U.S. are caused by the transportation sector, so reaching our goals will require innovative and aggressive solutions across all sectors. The entire ecosystem of electrification providers — from school bus manufacturers and charging infrastructure providers to technology and utility companies — need to work together to transition to an electrified world in a smart, reliable way.
While consumers making the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is important, the adoption of EVs is slow due to high upfront costs and a lack of simple driving experiences that match what most drivers here in the U.S. are used to. Additionally, an influx of EVs could cause an increased reliance on fossil-fueled power and create grid resilience issues, especially in areas that already struggle with rolling blackouts, like California and Texas.
To make a significant impact, we must electrify the nation’s fleets, especially medium- to heavy-duty vehicles such as last-mile delivery, municipal services like trash trucks, and most importantly, school buses.
The electrification of these industries should also include advanced charging solutions that help integrate EVs to the grid in a safe, predictable way.
Enter vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology.
V2G allows EV batteries to store energy — including renewable energy such as solar and wind — and discharge it back to the grid. Platforms like that of Nuvve Holding Corp., a V2G technology supplier, allow power from multiple EV batteries to be combined to create virtual power plants or “VPPs.”
This “aggregation” of energy allows Nuvve to combine the kilowatts from each individual EV to create megawatts of power generation that can be used to perform stabilizing grid services or even sell stored energy back to the grid. In markets where these services are allowed, Nuvve can earn revenue that can be shared with fleet owners. Electric school buses are the perfect type of fleet to create VPPs because of their large batteries and the fact they are parked most of the day and night.
School bus fleets can also save on EV charging by using Nuvve’s intelligent charging features: controlling the time and rate of charge so charging only occurs when rates are low while ensuring their vehicles have the charge necessary to perform their duties.
Additionally, V2G creates a mobile storage solution for renewable energy like solar or wind that are intermittent by nature. Innovative storage solutions like this are critical to reduce our reliance on fossil-fueled power plants and help modernize the grid without costly infrastructure upgrades.
The combination of these factors made possible by Nuvve’s V2G platform can reduce the total cost of ownership for electric fleets. For example, the sticker price of an electric school bus is approximately $120,000 to $200,000 more than a diesel bus. However, a V2G-enabled electric bus will save its owner about $170,000 to $240,000 over its lifetime in fuel and maintenance costs, according to a 2018 report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Nuvve is bringing together key players, including auto OEMs, charging station manufacturers, battery technology providers, utilities, and fleet owners (like school districts) so V2G can help intelligently and reliably transition fleets to electric.
V2G charging infrastructure is in commercial use around the world, but the standard for V2G interconnections is still being defined here in the U.S.
Recently at Pekin (Ill.) Public School District, Nuvve commissioned the first commercial, operational V2G DC charging station from Rhombus Energy Solutions using a CCS-1 connector to a Blue Bird electric bus that meets the stringent UL-1741-SA requirements for smart inverters (in EV charging stations).
Currently, having this standard is required before allowing grid interconnections — and therefore V2G operation — in states like California. EV charging stations with this certification meet grid-side requirements while taking into account what is happening on the EV/auto/driver side and enables sophisticated power electronics operations such as monitoring the grid, sending notifications to utilities, and reacting to changing conditions.
V2G could be a critical technology related to the federal administration’s plan to invest in the acceleration of EVs.
According to the White House, President Joe Biden’s proposed plan will, “replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrify at least 20% of our yellow school bus fleet through a new Clean Buses for Kids Program at the Environmental Protection Agency, with support from the Department of Energy. These investments will set us on a path to 100% clean buses, while ensuring that the American workforce is trained to operate and maintain this 21st century infrastructure. Finally, it will utilize the vast tools of federal procurement to electrify the federal fleet, including the United States Postal Service.”
Today, approximately 95% of school buses are diesel, but transitioning to electric buses comes with high upfront costs and a complex ecosystem of charging infrastructure and solutions. School districts committed to making the switch to green transportation have a lot of new information to navigate and waiting for federal funding might take years.
The good news is that V2G is commercial and available today, and by lowering the total cost of ownership for EV fleets like school buses and helping integrate renewable energy, it can play a central role in making access to clean energy more equitable, enabling school districts to provide cleaner rides to their students, and helping communities breathe cleaner air.
Reaching our nation’s decarbonization goals requires innovative solutions from industry leaders across the transportation and energy sectors, leadership from fleet owners and operators, forward-thinking action from policy makers and politicians, and technology providers like Nuvve who help bridge the gap between the whole ecosystem.
Marc Trahand is executive vice president of marketing for Nuvve.