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Con Ed tries pumping up with grid with electric school buses

Con Edison has kicked off its effort to juice up its power grid with electric school buses.

The tri-state utility giant is using the batteries on five electric school buses that ferry students to an elementary school in White Plains to pump 10 kilowatts into the system.

While that’s a drop in the ocean for a grid that powers millions of homes and businesses in Westchester and New York City, the goal is to test the system to see how it racks up in improving air quality and grid reliability.

BRIAN ROSS

“We think electric school buses may provide an opportunity to achieve two of our company’s goals, which are 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.”

Beginning in 2018, the five e-buses made by Lion Electric, a North American leader in heavy-duty zero emission transportation, replaced the usual diesel-spouting buses on the school routes. After ironing out kinks in communication between the buses, the chargers and the batteries, ConEd started relaying the power today.

The charging and discharging takes place at a depot in North White Plains. There, Nuvve Corp, a San Diego-based, green energy technology company that specializes in vehicle-to-grid transfers, plugs the buses into a charger when the demand for power is low. The chargers reverse the flow of power into the grid at times when the buses are not transporting children.

There are approximately 1,000 school buses operating in Westchester and 8,000 in New York City that could make a significant difference if converted to electric.

 “Our operators are dedicated to enabling the success of school bus electrification and V2G for the White Plains School District, with safety and reliability remaining our top priorities,” said Charlie Bruce, senior vice president of Business Development for National Express, which operates the buses for the school district.

Gregory Poilasne, chairman and CEO of Nuvve Corp, added, “The electric buses provide a cleaner environment for communities and help lower CO2 emissions while ensuring that driving energy needs are met every day.”

Con Edison contracted with First Priority Group to help develop and manage the project.

“Our goal was to bring industry experts together in a collaborative fashion to design and install one of the first true bi-directional V2G solutions in the U.S.” said Alex Cherepakhov, FPG’s chairman and CEO. “Vehicle-to-Grid integration is the next step in the evolution of EV fleet power technology and we are pleased to have collaborated with our partners in making this happen.”

The e-buses are made by Lion Electric

National Express pays the energy costs during the school year. Con Edison, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and National Express contributed to paying for the buses. Con Edison and National Express paid for the chargers.

The upfront cost of electric school buses is higher than diesel buses. But using electric school buses for vehicle-to-grid purposes could make them more attractive to school districts, the communities they serve, and the bus operators that provide the service.

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 air conditioning. Discharging power from the buses into the grid at these times of high demand would take stress off Con Edison electric-distribution equipment.

Among the questions the project will answer is whether the frequent charging and discharging will speed the degradation of the batteries.

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