When cell phones started to become more affordable, small, and reliable, consumers had a choice: continue using their pager to receive notifications or switch to the lesser known, cutting‐edge world of two‐way wireless communication. We all know what happened to the pager industry.
An analogous shift is happening in the transportation sector — that is, the megatrend towards electrification. And school buses, with their large batteries and predictable routes, are getting a lot of attention from both the private and public sectors.
So much emphasis is being put on electric, the question has changed from, “Should school fleets transition to electric?” to “When and how fast can we make the switch to cleaner rides for our kids?” With public funding proposed from the highest offices, grant funding, climate credits, and more, there is a lot of money being made available to ditch aging diesel school buses for their new, zero‐emission counterparts.
Electric buses offer many advantages, including lower maintenance and no fuel costs. However, they also come with a learning curve when it comes to charging infrastructure such as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSEs).
While more and more schools are taking advantage of grant programs to secure electric buses, many are choosing charging solutions with simple, one‐way EVSEs. Sometimes referred to as “dumb chargers,” these EVSEs can actually cause more problems than electric buses solve since they will most likely put a strain on the electric grid when plugged in to charge. Further, using dumb chargers for electric fleets could even increase the reliance on fossil‐fueled power plants to provide the needed energy, at least partially eradicating the positive environmental effects of driving with no CO2 emissions.
So what should schools do if they want to convert their fleet to electric in a more sustainable way?
Forward Thinking Technology for Your Fleet
We’ve previously discussed how vehicle‐to‐grid (V2G) technology can help accelerate the electrification of school bus fleets today. But V2G also helps future proof bus depots for the growing needs of tomorrow’s student transportation.
Today, advanced, bidirectional charging technology like V2G helps reduce costs by charging fleets when electricity rates are low and managing the precise charge rate to make sure bus batteries are not negatively impacted. Additionally, V2G creates a revenue generating opportunity by networking the excess energy stored in bus batteries into a virtual power plant that can push energy back and perform services that help stabilize the grid and prevent blackouts. Utilities and system operators pay for these services, enabling fleet owners and energy management companies to share in the profits.
While V2G is new to the U.S., fleets in Europe have been enjoying the benefits of V2G for years. In Denmark, for example, Frederiksberg Forsyning recently celebrated five continuous years of commercial V2G operation on Nuvve Holding Corp.’s (Nuvve’s) proprietary platform. The municipal water and gas company had the vision to go green and selected Nuvve as its energy management provider after successful projects in the region showcased its earning potential. Today, Frederiksberg Forsyning’s fleet batteries are used to store and sell excess energy to the local markets where they earn an average of $2,000 per vehicle per year. And this is with light‐duty vans that have battery capacities of 24 kWh to 40 kWh. For reference, bus batteries have capacities ranging from 100 to 300 kWh and continue to increase as battery technology improves.
Transportation Directors Say “Yes” to V2G
School districts have taken note, and many have begun future proofing their fleets by adopting V2G solutions. From New York to Illinois to California, transportation directors and superintendents are realizing that investing in V2G charging solutions now sets them up for long‐term success.
"We see electric and V2G as where school transportation is going, and we want to start planning for that future now," said Tysen Brodwolf, director of transportation for Cajon Valley Union School District in El Cajon, California. “I’m an old school bus driver. We drove dirty diesel vehicles and I was really against this technology when it first came out because I did not think it was going to meet the needs of this industry. But as it progresses, it gets better and better, the mileage increases, so honestly, it's made a believer out of me."
Besides the revenue opportunities, using V2G high‐powered chargers made especially for heavy-duty vehicles means a site’s charging infrastructure is designed to work with both current and future fleets as bus batteries grow and routes get longer. Having high‐powered solutions with outputs of 60kW or 125kW, for example, charge buses in a fraction of the time compared to low-powered chargers with only 10kW of output.
How Utilities are Jumping on the Electric Bus Bandwagon
The U.S. energy market landscape is more complicated than that of Europe, but it’s easy to predict the revenue opportunity once electric buses become the norm and utilities realize the benefits of V2G. Nuvve is already working with public utility commissions, system operators, utilities, and municipal co‐ops around the country to demonstrate how V2G can turn electric buses into valuable storage assets that can mitigate the need for costly infrastructure upgrades. With its ability to combine excess energy from electric batteries and provide this additional capacity back to the grid, Nuvve’s platform could reduce the need for rolling brownouts and blackouts during hot summer months.
V2G also allows for the increased integration of renewable energy resources since the vehicle batteries can store energy when wind or solar resources are producing more than the grid requires and then dispatch it later when needed most. In this way, V2G helps further decarbonize the grid. More businesses and agencies, including policy makers and regulators, are realizing the urgent need to upgrade our aging electric grid as we continue electrifying the planet. And doing so, will help create overall savings that can be passed down to rate payers creating energy equity across the utility landscape.
Making the Intelligent Choice Now
As schools go through the process of electrifying their buses, they need to make a choice between pagers or smartphones. Do they want dumb, one‐way charging that might (or might not) meet their charging requirements today, or do they want advanced bidirectional V2G charging that will future proof their fleets for years to come?
We think the choice is clear.