Today I attended an electric bus workshop organized by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC). They are travelling all over New York and New England talking about a big funding opportunity that will help school districts pay for electric buses. The electric bus market (and the electric car market) is growing rapidly all over the world because they dramatically reduce pollution. Compared to diesel buses, the air quality is improved for both the passengers (our kids!) and everybody else downwind. You have probably seen pictures of horrendous smog in China, but even here in the USA, our children are exposed to diesel particulate pollution while riding to school. It is a known cancer-causing substance and triggers asthma attacks. Because of reduced carbon dioxide emissions, the global warming impact of an electric bus is much lower than for a diesel bus. Here in Montpelier, we are trying to reduce our fossil fuel usage and electric school buses will take us in the right direction. The main problem is cost. The industry is just getting started in the USA. Electric bus prices are significantly higher than diesel right now, and government funding can’t close the gap. Fortunately, the recently-settled Volkswagen lawsuit will provide Vermont with $18.7 million to be used for specific diesel pollution reduction actions. The money won’t start flowing until 2018, but school districts need to start planning now to make projects happen.
There is one more important benefit to electric school buses. They can even out the load on the grid which helps with the integration of solar and wind energy. Network-ready chargers would only draw power only when there is extra power in the grid. Based on weather forecasts, the utility knows about 24 hours ahead when there will be extra power. They would be able to alter the charging schedule to even things out. So on a cool, sunny day the charging may occur from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, when the solar power peaks. On a hot cloudy day, the charging might be not start until after midnight, when demand is lowest.
You can learn more about VEIC’s Electric Bus program here.