Moving in a new direction always comes with some growing pains. For school bus fleets, those pains can move beyond headaches and anxiety, costing real dollars as well as precious time along the way. To create the right charging infrastructure for your electrified school bus fleet, you need questions answered, plans put in place, and the right partner helping drive the project forward.
There are no two projects that are identical — each district comes with its own requirements, issues, and complexities. In that same way, not all will be ready to go “all in” with charging infrastructure. Some might only be piloting a pair of battery-electric school buses, while others might be past the pilot stage and ready to create a multifaceted infrastructure that includes not only chargers, but battery storage, solar panels, and more.
Step 1: Laying out the Facts & Figures
The needs of your district in terms of charging infrastructure must be determined before taking the first step forward in this process. The number of new buses, when they will arrive, and the current status of available space for the incoming chargers are the first facts you need to solidify. From there, you can decide on the level of charger needed. In most cases, school districts will require either level 2 chargers or DC fast charging commercial chargers. These provide between 3 kilowatts to 350 kilowatts of available charging; allotted charging time should also be considered when deciding which one of these options will work best.
Next, it’s time to gather all the paperwork, which includes utility bills, a site plan, and diagrams of the onsite electrical grid. This is easier said than done, and this is where a lot of school districts might give up and move to another option. For IC Bus customers, this is where we get involved, bringing with us some other experts in the field of charging infrastructure — InCharge.
Step 2: Getting Some Professional Help
The team at InCharge starts by performing a site walk to understand the existing site parking and layout, property limits, and utility rights of way, as well as starting a preliminary layout design using a web-based remote survey tool. They then evaluate the routes and their distances, current power usage, and power capacity for charging. The utility costs are then calculated based on existing rate tariffs and a future capacity needs analysis is developed for both the short term and the long term, as well as an energy management control plan. For some districts, InCharge discovers utility rebates and incentives that can lower the costs of installing and maintaining the chargers. After all is said and done, the team develops and reviews the preliminary plan with the district before offering the final plan and cost estimates.
Step 3: Adding to Your Energy Ecosystem
While there are definitely some upfront costs to installing a charging infrastructure, there are also additional services that can be added to increase its effectiveness and decrease costs. With school districts looking for ways to stretch their budgets, fleet managers can decrease fuel spend even more with an electrified school bus fleet.
Utility rates vary by region, but in most cases, there are peak, off-peak, and super off-peak pricing for the electricity you use. School districts can set up their chargers to power their buses overnight when rates are much lower, saving a considerable amount compared to charging during peak times. They can also add a battery storage component to their infrastructure that charges during off-peak hours and then subsequently charges the school buses throughout the rest of the day, circumventing the higher rates.
School districts can also benefit from vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging. For example, the IC Bus Electric CE Series is V2G-ready, meaning that when it is paired with the appropriate equipment, it can supply power back to the grid and add revenue to the district’s coffers. Or, if a school is experiencing an extended power outage, a V2G-enabled bus can supply power back to the school.
The road to a zero-emission school bus fleet is not an easy one, but the benefits you reap will more than pay for the trip there. For more information on how to set up a successful electrification project, visit icbus.com/electric.