Electric School Buses Could Be “Mobile Batteries” During Blackouts

The Biden administration is giving away school grants all over the world under a new federal program. Grants reach over 400 school districts in all fifty states and Washington, DC along with several tribes and US territories.

School districts are expected to receive nearly $1 billion in grants to purchase approximately 2,500 school electrical appliances. Admin Biden notes that this is an important step to reduce emissions and pollution, but even more, vehicles can also provide much-needed security and resilience to protect communities against natural disasters.

Two experts in their respective fields from Cornell University gave their thoughts on the use of electrical systems in school and as mobile batteries in times of blackouts or natural disasters. Here is what we had to say;


Eilian Bitarwho is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University, who also researches how to sustain renewable energy sources in the Grid, says: “electric school buses can be a “network of mobile batteries” to make the grid cleaner and more reliable. .

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According to Bitar: “In addition to exposing riders to reducing harmful emissions, electric school buses have the potential to improve the energy resilience of historically protected communities to electricity disruptions and long blackouts.

“For example, when the Texas winter of 2021 left millions without power, families in most neighborhoods were among the first to lose power. When equipped with bidirectional charging technology, battery packs mounted on electric school buses can provide backup power when a community faces power outages. School buses are particularly suitable for providing these services, which are only in use for about five hours per day on school days, and are typically not in use during the school and holiday weeks.

“There is an opportunity to significantly reduce the total cost of ownership for electric school fleets by deploying aggregated energy storage capacity in their batteries to provide energy and sustainability services to the wholesale electricity market without impacting the use of transmission services.

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“The ability to align the flexible models of the electric school with intermittent electricity devices provide models of wind and solar resources, also has the power to remove over 8 million tons of carbon dioxide from the transport sector every year.

“As we continue to electrify our public transportation sector, we need to think about our electrified fleet as more than a form of transportation, but a network of mobile batteries that can support a cleaner and more reliable grid.”


Arthur Wheaton is an industry expert and director of labor studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Transfer. Wheaton says there may be upfront costs for electric buses, but it’s a smart investment for kids and the environment — with a strong return on investment.

Wheaton had this to say: “Electricity is a great idea for school purposes. They typically have a specific place to park overnight for recharging. The current fleet is very dirty vehicles mostly diesel that belch bad fumes and particulates while parked directly in schools. The upfront cost of buying an electric vehicle can pay off, although the return on investment pays for itself over many years since diesel fuel is not as expensive and requires far less maintenance. It is good for the schools, good for the kids, good for the environment, and good for the bottom line of our sky.

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


Featured image courtesy of Lion Electric.


 

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