10,000 electric school buses for US-wide VPP

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AutoGrid and California-based student transportation solution provider Zūm plan to develop a 1GW virtual power plant with school buses.

The initiative will have a dual role of supporting electrification of the major school bus sector, currently dominated by diesel powered vehicles, and utilising their inherent flexibility potential.

“School buses have predictable daily schedules and are typically used only a few hours each day, making them an ideal resource as part of a virtual power plant,” Rahul Kar, General Manager of New Energy at AutoGrid, points out.

“Virtual power plants play a crucial role in providing stability to a renewable-powered grid and the extra revenues from these grid services enable school districts and EV fleet owners to reduce the total cost of ownership as they strive to meet their sustainability goals.”

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The plan is to roll out the 10,000 electric school buses over the next four years, which will be managed by Zūm.

Currently Zūm manages transportation for more than 4,000 schools and school districts to offer optimised routes and best-sized vehicles including buses, cars and vans. The company claims in one California school district its operation has resulted in the number of students spending one hour or more on buses getting to and from school to drop from 70% to just 3% and the traditional diesel-based buses spending less time on streets.

Vivek Garg, President and Chief Operating Officer at Zūm, says the company is committed to making it easy for districts to evolve their fleets to 100% electric through a powerful combination of technology and innovation.

“Beyond that, we are taking vehicles that have traditionally spent the majority of their lifetime stalled or parked and expanding their use in multiple ways — from leveraging them for trips beyond home-to-school routes to optimizing the electric grid.”

Student transportation comprised of 500,000 yellow school buses transporting over 27 million students every day is the largest mass transportation system in the United States. The government’s proposal to invest $25 billion in the electrification of school buses offers the prospect of these as a significant potential flexibility for the grid.