3 Reasons Electric School Buses Are the Future

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Switching from diesel to electric school buses comes with a lot of benefits—so why are schools shying away from making the change? Electric buses come with a higher price tag, but the truth is that traditional diesel buses cost more to operate in the long run. There are a lot of companies and programs pushing, and helping others push, for electric buses in their cities and school systems. Doing so reduces carbon emissions, helps schools save money over time, and bolsters the power grid with vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, energy storage. 

Reducing Carbon Emissions

Electric vehicles produce less pollution when they’re in operation, but did you know building them produces less pollution too? Mining the necessary materials and manufacturing an electric vehicle’s battery produces less pollution than building vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. 

Dominion Energy, a power company headquartered in Richmond, VA, estimates that replacing one diesel bus with an electric bus will keep 54,000 pounds of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of taking more than five cars—and the pollution they produce—off of the road. If electric buses were fully implemented, it would have the same effect as removing more than 5,000 cars from the road every single year. 

Saving Money

Electric vehicles cost less to own, thanks to them needing less maintenance and running on cheaper “fuel.” Even taking into account the higher upfront cost of purchasing one, it still costs less overall. Certain programs like Dominion Energy’s are making it easier to pay the higher cost up front in order to save money down the road. For example, their program covers the difference in purchase price in order to encourage schools to opt for electric buses. This saves schools even more money, and allows them to make the switch affordably. They can spend up to 60% less in operating expenses for their bus fleet. 

That’s less money spent by taxpayers, and more money invested into students, teachers, educational technology, and school supplies. 

Vehicle-to-Grid Energy Storage

With any major switch like this one, there will be obstacles to overcome. For example, in order for companies like Dominion Energy to increase the amount of electricity they produce through renewable energy sources (like solar and wind), they have to find ways to increase their energy storage capacity as well. This is to account for the inconsistent nature of renewable resources. The vehicles that are perfect candidates for electrification and energy storage are those who don’t need to go long distances between recharges. At first glance, school buses don’t seem like very good candidates—they usually drive in the mid or late afternoon, when there’s high demand for electricity. 

If you look a little closer, however, they’re perfect candidates. This is because the peak demand on electricity is much greater in the summer—because people are home more often and constantly running their air conditioners. Meanwhile, school buses are sitting idly in a garage somewhere. So, why not make them part of the energy storage solution? 

With every bus having a battery bank capable of holding nearly 200 kWh of energy, a fleet of 1,050 buses can store 200 MWh. That’s enough to power 10,000 homes for five hours, with less than an 80% depth of discharge on the batteries. You see, repeatedly drawing more than 80% of a battery’s charge can reduce its life, so it’s important to leave a little in the tank. With all of these practical considerations, it’s clear that electric school buses could serve the V2G purpose.  

The best part is, V2G isn’t meant to provide emergency power during an outage—instead, its purpose is to deliver additional power during peak demand hours. For that purpose, 200 MWh is the perfect amount, making electric school buses the ideal solution. 

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