New York utility Con Edison is trialling vehicle-to-grid (V2G) tech with electric school buses, and the project is now live. In particular, this is taking place in White Plains and San Diego–based company Nuvve Corporation is the tech leader on it.
Five Lion electric school buses are having their batteries hooked up to the Con Edison grid.
The Lion Electric buses take students to schools in the White Plains area in the daytime like normal school buses, and then they charge and discharge at a depot in North White Plains at what are considered ideal times. And then there are the times when the buses send electricity back into the grid.
“When plugged in, Nuvve’s V2G platform determines the optimal time to charge according to when rates are lowest. On nights and weekends, when the buses are parked and not in use, the system reverses the flow of power — 10 kilowatts from each bus — into the grid.”
The big question is really going to be whether such technology and current electricity pricing and options to send electricity back into the grid are all at a place where it makes financial sense to run such V2G projects on a large scale. Does the utility get enough benefit from it to pay the school district enough for the energy storage services to justify the cost of the technology and operations? That’s the billion-dollar question.
“‘The goal of the project is to explore the technological and economic potential of using e-buses on a wider scale to improve air quality and grid reliability,” Nuvve writes. “There are approximately 1,000 school buses operating in Westchester and 8,000 in New York City that could make a significant difference to the environment if converted to electric with V2G capability.”
And there are many more buses elsewhere — hundreds of thousands in the US alone.
One of the big benefits of school buses is they have relatively set and clear schedules. So, any partners in such a project should know what they are getting into and should have a decent shot at modeling the outcomes, and even more so after a pilot project like this.
Additionally, the buses use very large batteries. That helps in a few ways. First of all, it means there should be more opportunity for deeper discharging and charging. Additionally, there should be less concern about battery degradation due to the state of charge this likely happens at (it’s better to keep a battery between 30% and 70% state of charge), and even if there is modest battery degradation from more frequent charging and discharging, the percentage of loss should be less significant than with smaller vehicles with smaller batteries.
And there’s one more thing. School buses are much more available — often totally unused — in the summertime, and this is when Con Edison is in the most need of grid services like V2G can provide.
“School schedules match up well with the power needs of Con Edison’s 3.5 million customers. School buses are generally idle during the summer, which is when utility customers’ need for power rises due to an increased use of air conditioning. Discharging power from a sufficient number of electric buses into the grid at these times of high demand would take stress off Con Edison electric-distribution equipment and increase grid resilience.”
Naturally, with all of these benefits in mind, some people have connected the dots. Those people, in particular, work at Nuvve. The company is reportedly connecting school bus manufacturers with utilities in more places, and even has a vision of a national rollout of V2G-enabled school buses.
“We think electric school buses may provide an opportunity to achieve two of our company’s goals: reducing carbon emissions and maintaining our industry-leading reliability” said Brian Ross, Con Edison’s manager for the project. “We are innovating to help our state and region achieve a clean energy future in which electric vehicles will have a big role.”
The partnership between Lion, Nuvve, White Plains School District, National Express, and First Priority Group started in 2018.
The heart of all of this is Nuvve’s energy aggregator platform GIVe, which “has been used around the world to transform electric vehicles into distributed energy resources (DERs) that can be controlled to deliver specific energy services to the grid.” If you find its story particularly compelling, you may be happy to note that Nuvve is on the verge of becoming a publicly traded company. It will be merging with Newborn Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: NBAC). “Gregory Poilasne, CEO and chairman of Nuvve Corporation, and the existing Nuvve senior management team will lead the combined company.” Yes, it seems to be this is yet another “backdoor IPO” — very popular with cleantech companies in 2020.
Here’s how the company summarizes what it does in that announcement about Nuvve (NASDAQ: NVVE) going public: “Nuvve’s proprietary V2G technology enables it to link multiple electric vehicle (EV) batteries into a virtual power plant (VPP) to provide bi-directional services to the electrical grid in a qualified and secure manner. The VPP can generate revenue by selling excess power to utility companies or utilizing the saved power to reduce building energy peak consumption.”
We do not offer investment advice of any sort here on CleanTechnica, but it does look like an intriguing and promising company that has a leg up in a business arena that is just sprouting.
“Since our founding in 2010, Nuvve has successfully delivered its patented and proprietary vehicle-to-grid technology and services to fleet customers, grid operators, electric utilities and other stakeholders around the world,” Poilasne has stated. “We have likewise partnered and integrated with multiple automotive manufacturers and electric utilities worldwide to enable adoption of V2G technology. To date, Nuvve is the only company in the world qualified with several system operators to commercially provide V2G grid flexibility services to electric utilities and system operators from batteries of electric vehicles.”
Images courtesy of Nuvve Corporation