Could Buses Be The Perfect Vehicle-to-Grid Mobile Battery For Cities?

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Vehicle-to-grid technology has been the ever-elusive golden egg for many renewable energy advocates, but always seems to get stuck because, among other things, it’s expected the average buyer of a personal vehicle won’t want to pay for it — which means manufacturers won’t have an incentive to build the tech into their cars.

The e-Buses Are Coming!

The extreme variability in use cases for personal vehicles also poses a challenge. However, there is another class of vehicles that is primed for conversion to electric vehicles and has the potential to take vehicle-to-grid functionality to the next level: buses.

A Bloomberg New Energy Finance e-bus report from earlier this month forecasted that 84% of new bus sales would be electric by 2030. Because of their larger hauling capacity, buses are also packed full of far more batteries than personal vehicles. As a special bonus, most are parked for long periods of time and run on very predictable schedules across the same distances each day.

Predictable Schedules & Routes

The schedule-driven nature of buses make them the ideal candidates for vehicle-to-grid, as batteries can be right-sized to the route, making them as cost effective as possible. This same characteristic gives fleet owners specific timeframes when those very same buses are sitting in the yard not doing any good for anyone.

As fleets of buses migrate to electric buses, that same yard of buses has the potential to become one of the largest battery storage banks in the region, with even a fleet of 100 buses representing an impressive 20–60 MWh of storage potential. The actual storage capacity of the fleet will be determined by the number of charging points in the yard, the capacity of each bus, and the capacity of each charging point to flow power to and from the grid.

Motherboard dug into what the opportunity looks like for a single personal vehicle, and it turns out, the opportunity is real:

According to PJM Interconnection, a grid operator and wholesale electricity market in the eastern half of the US, V2G tests done with electric BMW Minis earned each car user about $100 a month. Electric-vehicle owners in the US who drive 15,000 miles a year and charge exclusively at home can expect to pay $540/year in electricity costs, according to Plug In America.”

Scaling these savings up to a full fleet of fully electric buses takes the numbers to entirely new levels, with the potential to soak in excess electricity generated by intermittent renewables or feeding excess power back into the grid, for a charge.

Multiple Options To Go Electric

School districts don’t have to wait for some distant future to go electric, as numerous options are available today from reputable school bus manufacturers like Blue Bird and its Type C & D buses, Motiv Power System’s fully electric school buses that are already in use in Sacramento, and eLion’s long-standing school bus offering.

In addition to the economics that will inevitably drive school districts to adopt electric vehicles — the health implications of school buses on the most vulnerable among us (young children, not millennials) — maybe some school districts will just do it for the kids.

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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