The nation’s largest electric school bus fleet providing grid demand response solutions

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Maryland’s Montgomery School District has the most prominent electric school bus fleet in the US and is now unlocking the true potential behind these clean EV machines. Leading electric school bus provider Highland Electric Fleets is partnering with CPower to use the nation’s largest zero-emission bus fleet to help stabilize electricity demand, provide grid reliability, and lower energy costs.

Last week, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) hit a significant milestone by becoming the single largest electric school bus fleet in the US.

Last school year (2021 to 2022), MCPS received its first delivery of 25 EV school buses while installing the supporting infrastructure at one of its transportation depots. This school year (2022 to 2023), the school district deployed another 61, with the electric infrastructure installed at three additional transportation depots.

According to the school district, on a typical school day, MCPS diesel buses use around 17,000 gallons of diesel fuel, which emits polluting diesel exhaust that’s harmful to bus riders and the communities they serve.

For this reason, MCPS is partnering with Highland to replace its 325 school buses with zero-emission electric buses. The fleet upgrade is part of the school district’s target to reduce GHG emissions by 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035.

The school district notes the partnership will:

Deliver cleaner, healthier transportation for students and local communities and support electric grid reliability with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) services and the nation’s first use of electric school buses to provide synchronized energy reserves.

To support its mission, Highland is collaborating with CPower Energy to use the school district’s electric bus fleet to unlock demand response solutions designed to reduce emissions by limiting energy loads during peak grid demand.

MCPS electric school bus fleet (Source: Highland Electric)

Electric school buses provide stable grid demand

Highland and CPower will work together to enable “demand response solutions” using MCPS’s electric school buses to provide grid stability during peak demand periods.

Since the EV school buses run on a schedule, they make the ideal candidate to use as a backup energy source when electricity demand is the highest. CEO of CPower, John Horton, explains:

Our partnerships with EV fleet owners, charging operators, and local school districts across the country demonstrate that participation in grid services programs can substantially lower electrification costs, while supporting a local community’s resiliency and greening the grid.

CPower says it will manage the flow of electricity to the electric school buses, reducing demand on the grid when needed. The collaboration will help increase reliability for the largest grid operator in the US, PJM.

Although PJM recently added EV charging assets to participate in its capacity and ancillary services, it has not yet included bidirectional charging services (for some reason). CPower states allowing bidirectional charging to its market rules would:

Optimize environmental benefits by allowing the EVSB batteries to export additional clean energy capacity to the grid.

The company is hopeful with new distributed energy policies, such as FERC Order 2022, they will be able to use this technology to “unleash even greater value from these assets in the future.”

Electrek’s Take

The Montgomery County Public School District is setting an example of what electric school buses can accomplish. Not only will they prevent diesel exhaust pollution from harming our children and communities, but they can also provide grid stability during peak demand hours.

Adding bidirectional charging makes sense, as electric school buses sit unused for prolonged periods during the day.

Sadly, the majority of school buses in the US are still powered by diesel, which is completely unacceptable. With the benefits continuing to stack up and new incentives and policies to drive electric school bus adoption, there are no excuses anymore.

School districts are saving money, protecting the children and communities they serve, and providing practical solutions to enhance grid reliability when demand is the highest.

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