Electric School Buses Could Be “Mobile Batteries” During Blackouts

The Biden administration under a new federal program is giving grants to school districts across the country. The grants will reach more than 400 school districts covering all 50 states and Washington, DC, along with many US tribes and territories.

School districts are slated to receive nearly a total of $1 billion in grants to buy about 2,500 electric school buses. The Biden administration says it’s an important step toward reducing emissions and pollution, but the vehicles could also provide much-needed grid security and stability to the underserved. communities in the face of natural disasters.

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

Eilyan Bitarwho is a professor of electrical and computing engineering at Cornell University who also researches how to further integrate renewable energy sources into the grid, says: “Electric school buses will be a ‘network of mobile batteries’ to make the grid cleaner and more reliable. .”

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According to Bitar: “In addition to reducing the exposure of riding students to harmful emissions, electric school buses have the potential to improve the energy stability of historically underserved communities.” power outages and long outages.

“For example, when the Texas winter freeze of 2021 leaves millions without power, homes in predominantly minority neighborhoods will be among the first to lose power. If equipped with charging technologies bidirectionally, multiple batteries aboard electric school buses can provide backup power when a community is threatened with power outages. School buses are particularly suited to providing these services because it is only used for about five hours per day on school days, and is usually not used on weekends and school holidays.

“There is an opportunity to reduce the total cost of ownership for electric bus fleets by using the total energy storage capacity of their batteries to provide energy services and reliability in wholesale electricity market—without affecting their use for transportation 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 eliminate over 8 million tons of carbon dioxide from the transportation sector every year.

“As we continue to electrify our public transport sector, we need to think of our electrified fleets as more than 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 for 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, “Electric buses are a great idea for school systems. They usually have a designated place to park overnight for recharging. The current fleet is very dirty mostly diesel vehicles. that emit unpleasant fumes and particulates while parked directly in front of schools. The upfront costs of purchasing electric vehicles can be daunting even though the return on investment pays for itself over many years. no expensive diesel fuel and very little maintenance required. It’s good for schools, good for children, good for the environment, and a smart investment to achieve some of our climate goal.

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“Unfortunately, it will take many years to build 2500 electric school buses, but every one it replaces is a good start.”

Featured image courtesy of Lion Electric.


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