A bill in the U.S. Senate would create a program for electric school bus deployment with the capability to help power the grid when buses are not in use.
The Bus Integration Dedicated to Improving Resilience, Eliminating Congestion and Triggering Innovation Over Numerous Applications and Localities (Bidirectional) Act would create a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program that would be dedicated to deploying electric school buses with “bidirectional energy flow capability,” or the ability to use their batteries to power the electrical grid when not transporting students.
Bidirectional energy flow is also known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. The energy flows between a vehicle and the grid and could help make use of electric vehicle infrastructure to meet demand on the grid during peak times. V2G technologies have been demonstrated, and pilot projects are currently underway in U.S. school districts. However, a press release announcing the bill states that the technology remains commercially unproven, and investment is needed to scale.
The Bidirectional Act would give priority to applications that demonstrate economic viability and seek to use V2G buses in regions or applications where V2G is promising but not yet deployed. The school buses could be for V2G, as well as vehicle-to-building (V2B) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) applications. The release adds this would include grid balancing, microgrid services, offsetting building energy use, and resiliency applications such as using an electric bus as a mobile power station after natural disasters.
The bill would also require state public utility commissions to consider measures to promote V2G integration and require DOE to provide a report on the existing V2G school bus pilot programs.
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The release adds that electric school buses are ideal for V2G because of their large batteries, the fact that they sit idle for long periods of time (such as during summer months), they operate in predictable periods and operate in fleets. V2G also offsets the upfront cost of the vehicle by providing the value to school districts of returning energy to the grid.
U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper introduced the bill on Thursday with Sens. Michael Bennet, Amy Klobuchar, Angus King, Martin Heinrich, and Tina Smith. The Bidirectional Act reportedly builds on efforts like Colorado’s first in-state pilot program run by Durango School District 9-R and La Plata Electric Association as well as the Clean School Bus Program that helps school districts around the county adopt electric school buses.
“V2G will help balance clean energy supply with peak demand,” stated Hickenlooper, who reportedly visited the Durango school district to see its V2G pilot program. “Durango 9-R is showing how much of a success this idea is, we just need to deploy it nationwide.”