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The Role of Utilities in Promoting The Move to Electric School Buses

(Rick Sander, CEO, Tuesday February 23, 2021)

Clearly, the role of utilities in enabling (and even promoting) vehicle to grid (V2G) charging is very important. One of the biggest challenges that school districts have in moving from diesel internal combustion engine (ICE) school buses to electric school buses is the higher initial purchase cost. While this cost is offset over the life of the bus by the significantly reduced maintenance and operating energy costs, it can still be difficult for school districts to shoulder the higher purchase cost. A recent report by the U.S. Public Information Research Group (US PIRG) reinforces the concept that utilities (often with help from government grants) can be of great help in promoting the conversion to electric school buses.

The US PIRG report found that there are two general approaches that utilities have utilized to accelerate the move to electric school buses: Pay-As-You-Save (PAYS) programs and V2G programs. PAYS programs are like many other electricity conversion programs where the utility subsidizes the switch by paying the difference in cost between an electric solution (in this case, an electric bus) and the same non-electric solution. The customer is then charged a higher electric rate over the life of the bus to cover the up-front cost that the utility covered. Since the energy costs are lower for the electric bus, the overall cost can still be balanced. When combined with V2G programs, The US PIRG report found that the total savings a school district can realize per bus can be as much as $130,000 over the vehicle’s lifetime. Between this and government grants, these savings can often cover the higher initial cost of the electric buses.

Rhombus has built high-power inverters for renewable energy such as “behind the meter” grid energy storage systems for several years. We have applied that expertise to the design of our latest-generation bi-directional EV charging systems (which are designed from the start for the needs of fleet operators) and bi-directional smart inverter systems for microgrids. Rhombus expertise in energy management system (EMS) software is also embedded in our VectorStat EMS controller and software which is embedded in our EV charging systems and smart inverters. Rhombus also excels in the design and testing of high-power electrical equipment to meet the requirements of UL and other certification organizations. We have built hundreds of V2G-capable high-power, high-reliability chargers and bi-directional smart inverters for a variety of different sizes and classes of EVs. Find out how we can help you by contacting us at news@rhombusenergy.com, or by reading our Vehicle to Grid Solution Brief.

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