AutoGrid, Zūm partner to accelerate school bus electrification

Zum, Autogrid electrification graphic

AutoGrid and Zūm announced a partnership to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in a nearly century-old school transportation business that has previously relied on emission-intensive diesel yellow buses.

The partnership will leverage AutoGrid’s Virtual Power Plant technology (VPP) platform to deploy 10,000 electric school buses managed by Zūm in the next four years to create over one gigawatt of flexible capacity — the equivalent of powering more than one million homes for one to four hours — when the electricity grid is overloaded. When fully deployed, this is expected to be one of the largest VPPs in the world, according to an announcement.

“School buses have predictable daily schedules and are typically used only a few hours each day, making them an ideal resource as part of a virtual power plant. Virtual power plants play a crucial role in providing stability to a renewable-powered grid and the extra revenues from these grid services enable school districts and EV fleet owners to reduce the total cost of ownership as they strive to meet their sustainability goals,” says Rahul Kar, AutoGrid general manager, New Energy.

The potential for a clean future may be further accelerated through the Biden Administration’s proposed $25 billion investment in the electrification of school buses as part of the infrastructure bill, the company says. Student transportation — 500,000 yellow school buses transporting over 27 million students every day — is the largest mass transportation system in the United States. The transition to EVs for the school transportation sector will play a critical role in helping communities improve air quality and environmental health for student passengers and area residents. Every EV bus saves 11 tons of carbon emissions per year, which will help school districts make progress on their carbon footprint goals, the company says. 

The student transportation market has been stagnant in terms of technology adoption and conversion to sustainable practices, according to an announcement. Zūm has reimagined student transportation by developing end-to-end technology and services to provide greater sustainability, flexibility and efficiency for districts and working parents.

“We’re committed to making it easy for districts to evolve their fleets to 100 percent electric through a powerful combination of technology and innovation. Beyond that, we are taking vehicles that have traditionally spent the majority of their lifetime stalled or parked and expanding their use in multiple ways, from leveraging them for trips beyond home-to-school routes to optimizing the electric grid,” says Vivek Garg, Zūm president and chief operating officer. “By partnering with AutoGrid, we are creatively and efficiently making this a reality.”

The grid services revenues available through VPP programs not only help lower the cost of energy for school districts, they also help lower the overall cost of operating the grid by avoiding and deferring expensive infrastructure upgrades and reducing the need to purchase cost-prohibitive peak power. This benefits all electric consumers, including those who are not directly participating in these programs, and significantly reduces the usage of fossil fuel power plants.

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