Electric School Buses Could Be “Mobile Batteries” During Blackouts

The Biden administration, under a new federal program, is awarding grants to school districts across the country. The grants will go to more than 400 school districts spanning all 50 states and Washington, DC, along with several American tribes and territories.

School districts are slated to receive a total of $1 billion in grants to purchase about 2,500 electric school buses. Administrator Biden notes that this is an important step in reducing emissions and pollution, but even more, the vehicles can also provide much-needed grid security and resilience to underserved communities in the face of natural disasters.

Two experts in their respective fields from Cornell University gave their opinion on the use of electric school buses in the school system and as mobile batteries in times of blackouts or natural disasters. Here’s what they had to say:

Eilian Bitarwho is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University who also researches how to integrate renewable energy sources sustainably into the grid, says: “electric school buses can be a ‘mobile battery network’ to make the grid more clean and reliable.”.

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According to Bitar, “In addition to reducing students’ exposure to harmful emissions, electric school buses have the potential to improve the energy resilience of historically underserved communities to power outages and extended blackouts.

“For example, when the 2021 Texas winter freeze left millions without power, homes in majority-minority neighborhoods were among the first to lose power. When equipped with two-way charging technologies, the massive batteries on board the buses Electric school buses can provide backup power when a community is threatened with power outages.School buses are particularly well-suited to provide these services as they are only used for about five hours a day on school days and are usually not used during school holidays. week and school holidays.

“There is an opportunity to significantly reduce the total cost of ownership of electric school bus fleets by leveraging the aggregate energy storage capacity of their batteries to provide energy and reliability services to the wholesale electricity market, without affecting their utilization for transport services.

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“The ability to align the flexible charging patterns of electric school buses with the intermittent electricity supply patterns of wind and solar resources also has the potential to remove more than 8 million tons of carbon dioxide from the transportation sector annually.

“As we continue to electrify our public transport sector, we must think of our electrified fleets as more than just a form of transport, but as a network of mobile batteries that can support a cleaner and more reliable grid.”

Arthur Wheaton is a transportation industry expert and director of labor studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Wheaton says the upfront costs of electric school buses can be daunting, but it’s a smart investment for kids and the environment, with a strong return on investment.

Wheaton said this: “Electric buses are a great idea for school systems. They usually have a fixed place to park overnight to recharge. The current fleet is very dirty, mostly diesel vehicles that emit bad fumes and particulates while driving. they park directly in front of schools. The upfront costs of buying electric vehicles can be daunting, but the return on investment pays off over many years with no expensive diesel and much less maintenance. It’s good for schools, good for kids, good for the environment and a smart investment to meet some of our climate goals.

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“Unfortunately, it will take many years to build 2,500 electric school buses, but each replacement is a good start.”

Featured image courtesy of Lion Electric.


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