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A school bus driver’s view of the remaining battery charge of a Twin RIvers USD electric vehicle.


Castelaz explained that electric buses are an attractive


option to school districts for various reasons. “For some, the goal is reducing carcinogenic emissions. Others de- sire a more sustainable energy source or want a quieter bus for safety reasons. Whatever the impetus, there are many factors driving districts to opt for electric buses, including a lot of potential for emergency response, which I think is under-realized.” He said that the term ‘V2G’ could describe many poten-


tial value streams, from supplying power back to the grid to shifting the command curve from day to night. “But there is a lot more electric school buses could do, even on a community level, where you could power an emergen- cy response center or other buildings,” he added.


Partnerships with Utility Companies Dominion Energy in Virginia has a program that is


electric-vehicle ready, so putting students on an electric school bus fits well with the overall culture of the area. But many people question the value of an electric bus as well as just how sustainable it really is. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports only 17 percent of current vehicle electricity is sourced from re- newables. Nearly two-thirds originates from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, or petroleum), with the remaining 20 percent coming from nuclear energy. Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois has performed extensive studies on how electricity is produced in different regions, and it calculated how many tons of greenhouse gases are emitted into the air when powering an electric bus for a mile versus diesel or gasoline. “Even in the coal region of West Virginia, you still


come out ahead with an electric bus,” said Castelaz of Motiv Power Systems.


Emergency Power Source Pre-COVID-19, transportation staff routinely joked about the school bus being a rolling petri dish. With the adoption of electric buses and those well-charged batteries, they can now be rolling generators, providing power and other valuable tools like Wi-Fi during emergencies. Shannon, whose district provides school bus Wi-Fi hotspots to students, said he is looking forward to utiliz- ing this additional power source. “We’re looking at a new school building, with all LED lighting, where a bus can plug in, and during an emergency be used to power our re-unification center,” he said.


30 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2020


launching 50 Thomas Built Bus electric school buses across 16 districts to help make that switch from diesel to electric. Dominion owns the battery packs, reducing the cost of the buses to the schools, but the utility has the batteries as assets. This program not only provides cleaner air for children and helps school budgets, but it is also an innovative way to strengthen the electric grid by providing power when solar or wind isn’t available, or when an emergency strikes. Similar partnerships include the Consolidated Edison


utility company in New York, which teamed up with school bus contractor National Express in 2018. These programs also tout the benefits of having the energy stored on the buses available, especially during the sum- mer to provide stability to the grid during hot weather when demand is high. With the East Coast and Gulf Coast experiencing bus-


ier than ever hurricane seasons over the past few years, and heat waves in the West that cause rolling blackouts, perhaps those districts that have invested in electric school buses will be heroes who ‘charge’ in to help com- munities during emergencies. ●


Learn more about how electric bus total cost of ownership at stnonline.com/go/7o.


Read about infrastructure and charging of alternative fuels in the August magazine issues at stnonline.com/go/7n.


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