Zum's electric school buses.

Zum supplied Oakland Unified School District with 74 all-electric school buses and bidirectional charging technology.

Source: Zum/Canva

Zum, a modern student transportation platform, has announced that the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) will be the first major school district in the United States to transition to a 100% electrified school bus system with groundbreaking vehicle-to-grid technology.

Zum is providing a fleet of 74 electric school buses and bidirectional chargers in Oakland, managed through its AI-enabled technology platform. The all-electric vehicle (EV) fleet will not only transport students sustainably but also play a critical dual role as a virtual power plant (VPP), providing up to 2.1 gigawatt-hours of energy back to the power grid annually.

"We at Zum strongly believe it is time to move beyond pilots and deploy sustainability solutions at scale. Converting the Oakland Unified school bus fleet to 100% electric with VPP capability is the right step in that direction," said Ritu Narayan, founder and CEO of Zum. "This historic milestone is a win-win proposition: Electric school buses with V2G provide students with cleaner, fume-free transportation and allow us to send untapped energy from the bus batteries back to the grid, creating an enormous impact on grid resilience. Zum is proud to have delivered on this ambitious project a year ahead of schedule."

Student transportation is the largest mass-transit system in the nation, moving 27 million students twice daily. Today, more than 90% of the nation’s 500,000 school buses run on carbon-based fuels, releasing more than 8.4 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, exposing students and communities to harmful gases every day.

3 Takeaways

  • Oakland Unified School District pioneers a 100% electric school bus fleet, setting a national precedent for sustainable student transportation.
  • Bidirectional chargers enable buses to support the grid, offering up to 2.1 gigawatt hours of energy annually, enhancing grid resilience.
  • Collaboration with partners and innovative programs accelerates the transition, highlighting the potential for widespread adoption of electric buses.

"Oakland becoming the first in the nation to have a 100% electric school bus fleet is a huge win for the Oakland community and the nation as a whole," said Kim Raney, executive director of transportation at Oakland Unified School District. "The families of Oakland are disproportionately disadvantaged and affected by high rates of asthma and exposure to air pollution from diesel fuels. Providing our students with cleaner and quieter transportation on electric school buses will be a game-changer, ensuring they have an equitable and stronger chance of success in the classroom."

Electrification of such a large fleet with V2G capabilities requires a vast ecosystem of partners. Federal and California State programs that have been critical to the acceleration of this project are: the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus program, California Air Resources Board (CARB), Heavy Vehicle Incentive Program (HVIP) vouchers, Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), and Clean Mobility Operations (CMO) programs.

The acceleration of the EV transition was the result of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s, Zum’s utility partner, ability to provide 2.7 megawatts of load to Zum’s Oakland EV-ready facility in record time.

"PG&E is proud to work closely with Zum and Oakland Unified in deploying what is the largest electric school bus fleet and vehicle-based, grid-supporting resource in the country," said Mike Delaney, vice president of utility partnerships and innovation, PG&E. "Oakland is PG&E’s headquarters; it is home to many of our customers and co-workers, and a city we’ve proudly served for more than a century. Achieving this advanced fleet electrification and vehicle-grid-integration milestone for the people and students of Oakland reflects our commitment to delivering excellent customer service outcomes for our hometowns using breakthrough thinking, collaboration, and swift execution."

Zum has set a goal of electrifying 10,000 bidirectional school buses, which will create the potential to supply 300 gigawatt-hours of energy to the power grids annually. In addition, Zum is electrifying school buses in its fleet in districts across the country, with San Francisco Unified and Los Angeles Unified — which are three and six times the size of Zum’s Oakland school bus fleet, respectively — to soon follow.

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