AUSTIN (KXAN) — As early as next month, billions of new federal dollars will start to become available for school districts across the country to transition to clean, electric school buses. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program will provide $5 billion over five years to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission models.
Currently, fewer than 1% of the nation’s school buses are powered by electricity, but with advances in electric bus technology, growing understanding of the benefits of electrification, and now a fresh influx of federal money through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, electric school buses are becoming an increasingly viable option for school districts.
KXAN’s Amanda Dugan spoke with a Clean Energy Associate, Lennis Barlow, from Environment Texas about how electric buses could not only benefit the grid but also students.
There is a focus right now on school districts across the country to transition to clean electric school buses, tell us how that will help?
“This will help our school districts in a number of really significant ways I think the most obvious is going to be in terms of carbon emissions and air pollution that will be reduced in these school districts. Conventional buses are run on diesel, which is one of the most intensely polluting fuels out there. The hope is that electric buses will be rolled out in communities that have felt the most disproportionate impacts of pollution.”
If every yellow school bus was replaced by an electric bus how would it even help the grid?
“Texas has one of the highest potential of course, it’s such a large state for energy storage through electric school buses. It’s in on the order of 6000-megawatt hours of capacity could be added to the grid…if every school bus was electric and equipped with vehicle to grid technology.
“Vehicle to grid technology is essentially, to way charging. So, when we think of charging our electric vehicles that’s plugged into the car, and it’s all coming in one direction. However, there is technology available that allows these buses to both be charged by the electricity from the grid, and then also push electricity back into the grid. And this is a really important implication for the future of electric buses, because it allows buses, which would essentially be huge mobile generators to provide battery storage capacity back into the grid.”
“Another important thing to state here is, buses are really good candidates for vehicle to grid technology, buses specifically because they would have such a big battery. And they are not in use for so much of the day. So you use buses, early in the morning to get the kids to school and then early in the afternoon to take them back home. And that’s around four hours a day usually. So there’s so much time where the buses are idle, and could be serving this function. In addition, the fact that they’re not used during the summer at all. Which is when Texas energy usage is the highest. They could continue to provide this service even when like students are not using them.
What are some changes that we need to see happen in order to see more electric school buses on the roads?
“First and foremost, we need more investment in electric school buses by our state and federal leaders, there’s currently the largest barrier to electric school buses is going to be the upfront cost for these school districts. And as we know, school districts are pinching pennies at the moment. And it’s important that they don’t feel like making this important investment in the health of their students, and then potentially aiding, our grid and shifting over to renewables, all of that, it’s important that they don’t feel like that’s a financial burden on them. We need more investment in this technology to bring down the cost and more federal and state subsidizing of these buses so that school districts, especially in low-income communities, are able to take advantage of them.”