Beyond Transportation: How Electric School Buses Can Create More Resilient Local Communities
The electrification of school bus fleets is a pivotal step toward reducing carbon emissions and ensuring a cleaner and healthier environment for students. Electric school buses (ESBs) are becoming an increasingly popular choice for school districts and educational institutions.
As of June 2023, industry analysts identified 5,982 ESBs awarded, ordered, delivered, or operating across 914 school districts or private fleet operators. That represents an increase of five-fold in committed ESBs and a three-fold increase in school districts over the last two years. A collection of funding opportunities and incentives has been driving much of this ESB adoption and should continue accelerating additional growth.
However, the transition to electric vehicles comes with several considerations, including deciding between unidirectional electric vehicle charging (EV) and bidirectional vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging infrastructure.
In this article, we will explore the differences between these two approaches and highlight how bidirectional V2G technology is strengthening the resilience of schools and their local communities.
The Untapped Power of Bidirectional Charging for Electric School Buses
On average, school buses only operate for a small portion of the day, leaving up to 23 hours for charging. Unfortunately, legacy charging systems limit the full potential of the energy stored in the ESB batteries.
Unidirectional charging, often called “one-way” charging, is the traditional method of charging electric vehicles (EVs). This method involves transferring electrical energy from the grid to the EV battery. While unidirectional charging enables this singular purpose, the approach lacks the versatility, flexibility, and potential for the added value that bidirectional V2G charging offers.
Bidirectional V2G capability enhances charging infrastructure, particularly for ESB fleets, since the buses can serve as large battery storage systems. The technology not only allows power to flow from the grid to the vehicle but also enables energy to be sent back from the vehicle to the grid.
How Bidirectional V2G Charging Works
Charging Phase: Electric school buses charge their batteries from the grid during low-demand periods, efficiently storing energy for future use.
Discharging Phase: During outages or peak demand periods, the buses become mobile power sources, supplying electricity to buildings and facilities
The Advantages of Bidirectional V2G Charging Infrastructure for Electric School Buses
- Resilience and Backup Power: Bidirectional V2G charging transforms ESBs into mobile energy storage units. School districts can draw power from their fleets’ bus batteries in case of grid disruptions or emergencies, ensuring operational continuity and acting as a backup power source. This two-way energy flow enhances resilience, a crucial factor for school operations.
- Energy Market Participation: Bidirectional V2G charging allows school districts to actively participate in energy markets. They can sell excess energy stored in their ESBs back to the grid during peak demand, potentially generating additional revenue. This participation helps stabilize the grid and reduce electricity costs.
- Grid Support: School districts can provide grid support by injecting power into the grid during periods of high demand or when renewable energy sources are unavailable. This capability not only offers a source of income but can also significantly contribute to the overall stability of the grid.
- Reduced Energy Costs: Through demand response and peak shaving, bidirectional V2G charging can help school districts reduce energy costs. Facility and transport managers can optimize energy consumption patterns to take advantage of cheaper electricity rates during off-peak hours.
- Environmental Benefits: By actively participating in the grid, school districts can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the transition to renewable energy sources, contributing to a cleaner environment and setting a positive example for students and the community.
- Scalability: If, in the future, a school district decides to install other DERs, like a PV solar array, the increased energy generation and V2G charging infrastructure can unlock more benefits and value from energy market participation and grid support services.
A bidirectional V2G charging solution elevates ESBs beyond their primary function, transforming fleets into dynamic energy assets that provide backup power for school facilities to improve resilience, drive saving, and pave the way for long-term sustainability.
A Single, Simple V2G Charging Solution
The complexity of installing and maintaining bidirectional V2G charging infrastructure has previously limited their integration in on-site energy systems.
This is where Heila Technologies can help. With vast experience on the cutting edge of the energy sector, Heila has been redefining the role of microgrids and distributed energy resources (DERs) like ESBs and EV charging infrastructure.
Heila is not just a solutions provider but also a project integrator, serving as the central hub to connect and coordinate all stakeholders, from permit acquisition to design and contractor selection to system deployment and long-term operations and maintenance (O&M). This comprehensive, turnkey approach not only simplifies and streamlines the process but also minimizes project complexities to help school districts, fleet contractors, and EPCs accelerate electrification and unlock the full potential of this transition.
If this has sparked any questions about electric school bus implementation, V2G charging infrastructure, or our services, reach out to us today. We’d love to hear from you and see where we can help you optimize energy for opportunity!