Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Electric School Buses Are a Big Solution

Electric bus by Nuvve and Blue Bird. Nuvve image.

George Harvey

Nuvve Corporation is a green energy technology company based in San Diego that bills itself as a leader in vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. Blue Bird is America’s largest producer of school buses. Now, the two have entered into a partnership to bring America up-to-date, with electric school buses.

Blue Bird actually pioneered the electric school bus. Its first electric model was introduced back in 1996. But up to now, electric school buses have been pretty much in an unusual niche.

Today electric buses have a large number of advantages. They do not emit carbon dioxide on their own, and if their electric supply is a low emitter, then their net contribution is minimal. They do not expose school children to diesel exhaust, which is a real health hazard. They are quiet. And despite the fact that electric buses have higher up-front costs than diesel or gasoline equivalents, they are so much cheaper to run so they save a lot of money.

The partnership of Nuvve and Blue Bird, however, brings another big advantage. With V2G technology, they have a potential to reduce bills for every electric utility customer.

The trick to the grid is keeping things in balance. Baseload power plants are inflexible, always generate the same amount of power. But the supply changes constantly, so we have had to use expensive electricity from plants that can change their output. Some of these can match demand changes in just a few minutes.

With renewables, we have equipment that has constantly changing output, and this has its good points, as well as some that are not so good.

Baseload power has been used because it was cheap. Peaking plants, by contrast, might produce power that costs the utilities five times as much or more. The economic balancing act they have to maintain has been hidden from consumers, unless they want to be involved.

Now, we are entering an age when batteries are being used more and more. They can respond to changes in demand in amounts of time so short that the grid can be balanced constantly, for all practical purposes. And that has the potential to save utilities and consumers a fair amount of money.

This is where the partnership of Nuvve and Blue Bird can have an effect on our economy. V2G technology means that vehicles can provide electricity to balance the grid. And this reduces the need for utilities to invest in battery-backup power greatly.

The idea that a bus or a car can discharge a little power might not seem like a big issue. But consider this: There are 480,000 school buses in the United States. Each of these might have a 150 kilowatt-hour battery, which is not all that big, but if 480,000 were combined, that would be 72,000 megawatt-hours. And that is just a little bit shy of the average amount of electricity produced in an hour by all the nuclear power plants in the country.

If that is available to our utilities, it would push our power bills down a lot. And that will happen if we all decide to reduce pollution, noise, and costs.

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