Electric School Buses Could Be “Mobile Batteries” During Blackouts

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

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

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

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

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According to Bitar, “In addition to reducing harmful emissions for student riders, electric school buses can improve the resilience of historically underserved communities to power outages and extended power outages.

“For example, when the Texas winter freeze of 2021 left millions without power, households in majority-minority neighborhoods were among the first to lose power. When equipped with two-way charging technologies, the massive batteries inside electric school buses can provide backup power when a community is threatened with power outages. School buses are particularly suitable for this service as they are only used for about five hours a day on school days and are generally not used on weekends and school holidays.

“There is an opportunity to significantly reduce the total cost of ownership of electric school bus fleets by using the total energy storage capacity in batteries to provide energy and reliability services in the wholesale electricity market without affecting their use for transportation services.

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“The ability to match electric school bus charging patterns with intermittent wind and solar power schemes can also remove more than 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the transport sector each year.

“As we continue to electrify the public transport industry, we need to think of our electrified fleets as more than just a mode 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 cost of electric school buses can be daunting, but it’s a smart investment for kids and the environment — with a big return on investment.

Whitton said: “Electric buses are a great idea for school systems. They usually have a designated place to park overnight to charge. The current fleet is very dirty, mostly diesel vehicles, which emit bad fumes and particulates when parked right next to schools. .The upfront cost of buying an electric vehicle can be daunting, but the return on investment pays for itself over many years with no expensive diesel and much less maintenance.It’s good for schools, the kids, the environment and a smart investment to meet some of our climate goals.

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“Unfortunately, building 2,500 electric school buses will take many years, but every one it replaces is a good start.”

Featured image courtesy of Lion Electric.


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