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Charge by night, discharge by day: These electric school buses will send power to the grid

Rob Nikolewski, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Automotive News

A fleet of electric-powered school buses in El Cajon, California, can send electricity back to the state's grid, thanks to first-of-its kind technology developed by a local company and a partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric.

And soon other school districts in the area will be able to do the same.

"These buses are like storage on wheels," said Gregory Poilasne, CEO of Nuvve, a tech company based in Liberty Station that specializes in advancing what's called "vehicle to grid" projects.

Nicknamed V2G for short, the bi-directional technology allows electric vehicle batteries that charge during the day when solar energy is abundant on California's power system to then discharge emissions-free energy back to the electric grid when it is needed the most.

In the case of the Cajon Valley Union School District, its fleet of eight all-electric school buses earlier this month successfully deployed the V2G technology as part of a pilot project in collaboration with Nuvve and SDG&E. As part of a five-year effort, the utility installed eight 60-kilowatt direct current fast chargers in the school district's bus yard in El Cajon.

This is the first V2G project to come online in the U.S.


"This is another distributed energy resource that's mobile, that's on the road," said Miguel Romero, SDG&E's vice president of energy innovation. "There's a significant amount of capacity in these batteries."

Manufactured by Lion Electric, the Cajon Valley buses have battery capacity of up to 210 kilowatt-hours. That's five times more than a typical electric car.

Scott Buxbaum, the school district's assistant superintendent of business services, said the buses typically charge overnight when electricity prices are low. After the buses pick up and drop off students and drivers complete other chores, the batteries quickly get recharged and can then send electricity back to the grid.

"We can charge a bus in two to three hours from fully drained" using the fast chargers, Buxbaum said Tuesday at a news conference at the school district's transportation offices. "That's really important to have a fast-charging process."


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