A fleet of electric-powered school buses in El Cajon can send electricity back to California’s grid, thanks to first-of-its-kind technology developed by a local company and a partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric. The concept is called “vehicle to grid,” making the buses multi-task as energy storage.

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 most.

And soon other school districts in the area will be able to do the same. Further, the school district could even create revenue by participating in San Diego Gas & Electric’s Emergency Load Reduction Program, which “pays business customers $2 per kilowatt-hour if they are able to export power to the grid or reduce their usage during energy emergencies.”

“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 is called “vehicle to grid” projects.

Every single school needs to adopt this electric school bus vehicle-to-grid technology. It results, in not only more power back and lowers electricity prices, however, but it will also reduce the emissions for the kids on the bus, the driver, the pedestrians around the buses, and the residents who live near the schools.

On the part of the Federal Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $5 billion Clean School Bus Program in May 2022. The aim of this program is to help school districts replace polluting diesel buses with clean electric ones.

The program will distribute money over the next five years to cover the cost of new electric buses. While buses that run on some ‘alternative fuels’ are eligible for some of the funding, however, the EPA is placing higher prioritization on applications for electric buses.

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 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 a battery capacity of up to 210 kilowatt-hours. That is five times more than a typical electric car.

California policymakers have also set a goal to derive 100 percent of the state’s electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045, if not sooner, and Gov. Gavin Newsom two years ago issued an executive order banning the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars by 2035.

California’s electric system is particularly under stress during “net demand peak” — a crucial period of time when solar production wanes as the sun goes down but demand stays high, especially in the summertime, because people keep their air conditioners running and turn on their appliances after work.

With its bi-directional chargers up and running, Cajon Valley can take part in another pilot program the California Public Utilities Commission recently established.

While many are sweating about how terribly impossible and challenging electrification is, but one should prefer to keep their eyes on the prize. A future that can be, and hopefully will be, incredibly more clean, humane, and enjoyable.

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