He’s the CEO and president of a mobile power solutions provider by day, and a DJ by night (no, really). You can find Pioneer Power Mobility’s Geo Murickan spending time with his wife and two boys and their fishes and turtles, sampling music, or helping school districts and contractors take the leap from diesel-powered school buses to electric ones.
Pioneer Power Mobility, a division of Pioneer Power Solutions, offers e-Boost, an off-grid mobile charging solution that allows for the use of electric vehicles (EVs) without the need for obtaining permits, electrical upgrades, on-site construction, or other things that can be barriers for some fleets to make the transition to electric-powered cars, trucks, and buses.
School Bus Fleet talked to Murickan to learn more about the benefits of mobile EV charging, and what may be holding some districts back from going electric.
1. Beyond state- and federal-level legislation, what makes electric-battery and other alternative-fuel school buses appealing?
When we talk about our roles and responsibilities as industry leaders, and what we owe the next generation, leaving them with a more sustainable future is a key part of it. While it may not be an easy decision, and it may be difficult to make the transition, making those difficult choices are a critical part of our responsibility. I feel we owe it to our children to leave them with a better, cleaner future. And it begins with us. In order to make the vehicle-to-grid and other technology transitions a reality, we have to start the transition to EVs and other alternative fuels school buses as a necessary choice.
2. What makes some districts and contractors hesitate to make the move to battery-electric buses?
I think primary cause may be the immediacy they feel for the need to transition. When you think about it, schools and school boards are progressive, but they're not aggressive in their decision-making, especially when it comes to adopting newer technologies. And I think moreover, there are facts, like having proper electrical infrastructure to charge these vehicles that are probably at the root cause of a lot of their hesitation. Aligning the school district needs and the timings with the utility infrastructure schedule is not easy. Thus, it creates this hesitation that keeps percolating for them.
3. How can transportation directors best approach their school boards about the feasibility of keeping their electric school buses powered?
It's a difficult job. I think the way to do it is in a staged approach. The first stage is to secure one or two or a few electric buses to try out their capability and becoming familiar with how they perform on routes required for the school district. The angst from not having the proper charging infrastructure in place can be alleviated through a number of technologies available in the market today. There are some battery technologies, there are some plugin mobile technologies. But the importance is in trying to take one of those, assessing them, and figuring out what works best for their particular school district. We at Pioneer Power Mobility offer the e-boost, which is EV charging that is off-grid. It's mobile. It's powered by green fuel today, as I stated before, and available for purchase or lease from select bus manufacturers or from us to fill the gap in the timeline toward a fully powered utility infrastructure for the school district.
4. How did Pioneer get into the industry of mobile power solutions?
We're a company that has been around manufacturing, power assets, critical and backup, power equipment and service for over 30 years. Being a publicly traded company, we perform market analysis. Back in 2020, we saw the upcoming surge in the EV adoption, but an equally weighted pressure on utilities to be able to provide the power needed to support this EV surge. Our engineering design team designed and prototyped several off-grid technologies and decided that e-Boost, which is the propane-powered solution, was the most affordable, robust, resilient, transportable, and sustainable solution for today.
5. What are the benefits of mobile vs. permanent charging stations?
One of the most difficult decisions for human beings, when starting a home is deciding which furniture goes with, right? What we found out is that it's no different when it comes to deciding where charging stations should be located. When we talk to a lot of municipalities, they talk about when they start out this journey in trying to use data to come up with primary locations for chargers, it may be perceived that the corner of First and Main (for example), is the best location. But they may realize after about six months that it's better to have it on Third and Main. We want to eliminate those hassles and guesses. With mobile EV charging, you can have it at one corner one day, another corner another day, until you figure out the right place. Once you have that data, then it's easier to plan the permanent infrastructure from the utility. So besides that off-grid feature of mobile solutions, what it lends, inherently, is the resiliency factor. This is especially important for school districts when they face utility outages and having an entirely EV bus fleet. So more importantly, if you think about the role school buses play, they’re still a major role in helping with mass pupil transportation during an evacuation after major natural disaster. So having a portion of the school district charging infrastructure that is mobile and off-grid is a critical part, we feel, for the EV transition and for the future.
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