With advances in electric bus technology, a growing understanding of the benefits of electrification, and an influx of federal money through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), electric school buses are becoming an increasingly viable option for school districts, according to a new report from the United States Public Interest Research Group, Environment America, and Frontier Group.
The report, Electric School Buses and the Grid, Unlocking the power of school transportation to build resilience and a clean energy future, details how electric school buses with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology can benefit the community and the grid.
The report highlights that V2G technology enables electric school buses to provide stability, capacity, and emergency power to the grid when needed, and potentially to earn revenue for school districts for providing these and other services. Electric school buses with V2G technology can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both the transportation and power generation sectors.
The authors of the report state that if every school bus currently in operation across the U.S. were replaced with a V2G-capable electric bus at the same time, this would add over 60 gigawatt-hours (GWh) to the country’s capacity to store electricity. School buses have use patterns that allow them to be available as a source of large volumes of energy storage.
Additionally, the battery storage provided by electric buses could speed the transition to a renewable energy grid.
When equipped with the proper technology, electric school buses can offer additional benefits, including providing backup power to support emergency management efforts and critical infrastructure during power outages.
With increased collaboration between school districts and electric utilities, electric school buses can be a cost-efficient alternative, creating savings in lower operating costs from reduced spending on maintenance and fuel. Costs also become more predictable due to the stability of electricity rates compared to fossil fuel prices.
V2G technology is still in its early stages, and while the potential is high for providing a range of opportunities for schools and communities, there are still some barriers that need to be addressed.
The report highlights that realizing the full potential of V2G school buses will require collaboration between school districts, electric utilities, and other entities, while revising public policies to ensure that investments in electric school buses make financial sense.
The IIJA passed in 2021 allocates $2.5 billion for new electric school bus purchases and an additional $2.5 billion for alternative fuel buses.
The authors urge the federal government to support research to standardize regulations and practices needed for electric school buses to integrate with the grid and participate in energy markets.
They also encourage states to develop a roadmap to allow regulators to support the development of V2G and simplify the creation of regulations and policies to minimize the risks for utilities and school districts.
Some entities are already starting to sign agreements to make electric school buses an affordable option across the country. Click here to learn more.