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Sustainable electric school buses for Sunnyvale's children and environment

We will help Sunnyvale's schools and community to adopt electric buses and innovative, affordable charging solutions

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The Mobility House ( TMH ) offers innovative charging and energy storage solutions. Founded in 2009, TMH supports all leading car and bus manufacturers in over 10 countries. TMH is headquartered in Munich and leads US market activities from its Sunnyvale office.

The three major pillars of TMH are 1) Charging Solutions, including innovative charging infrastructure solutions and services around electric mobility for vehicle manufacturers and end customers 2) Energy storage solutions based on car batteries for industrial sector and, 3) Vehicle-to-Grid: TMH implements solutions for unidirectional and bi-directional charging, also known as Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) and Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) to stabilize the power grid.

How are you connected to Sunnyvale?

  • I work in Sunnyvale.

What type of applicant are you?

  • For-profit

Stage of Development.

  • Idea with demonstrated evidence of impact (ready to expand beyond Sunnyvale)

What problem are you aiming to solve? (100 words)

School buses should be safe for children and the environment. But currently most buses are diesel-powered, exposing our children and community to harmful emissions, and contributing to climate change.

Tell us more about your climate strategy or solution (500 words)

Emissions from school bus transportations are known to be particularly harmful to both the climate and children’s health, as most buses are still diesel-powered buses. Diesel emissions from buses have been linked to asthma and other respiratory diseases. “School buses are really important because the air inside a diesel bus or natural gas bus can be a lot more polluted for children compared even to the ambient air,” said Tyson Eckerle, deputy director of zero emission vehicle infrastructure at the California governor’s office adding “Electric school buses have no emissions, so those developing lungs aren’t affected.” In Fact, the Bay Area ranked sixth worst in the nation from 2014 to 2016 in terms of short-term particle pollution in a report released by the American Lung Association. We want to replace existing buses with electric buses in order to reduce both local and overall emissions. Replacing diesel buses by electric buses that are powered by dirty fossil fuels through the grid will not make a difference that justifies the additional costs. So we propose a solution that helps further integrate renewable resources. The solution should charge the buses when there is a lot of solar and wind and use these buses to feed power back to the grid when there is stress on the grid or in emergencies. This can help integrate more renewables, decrease rates of renewables curtailment and generate additional revenues for the operators of the buses. Additionally, we want to create awareness amongst the young for sustainable solutions.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (100 words)

A network of electric school buses combined with smart charging solutions will improve air and transportation quality for schools and children in Sunnyvale. Also, bidirectional charging (V2G) will enable EVs to draw electricity from the grid when there is surplus of solar energy and feed electricity back during the peak demand hours. This will contribute to Sunnyvale's goal of reaching 100% renewable energy.

Explain how your idea would be implemented in Sunnyvale (700 words)

The Mobility House team would work with the Sunnyvale School District and other local stakeholders to 1) develop a fleet electrification plan (analyzing most suitable routes for electric buses, selecting buses and charging hard- and software), 2) secure funding (submit proposal to funding agencies), 3) implement the electrification effort (procure and coordinate local contractors) and, 4) operate the charging infrastructure (using TMH smart charging platform). We would use TMH’s proven CONCEPT-IMPLEMENT-OPERATIONS approach. We estimate this process to take ~2 years, by the end of which the first electric school buses would be operational on the streets of Sunnyvale.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (250 words)

School buses are ideal candidates for electrification since they sit idle most of the day they. With V2G technology those buses can become a valuable grid resource, enabling the integration of more renewable energy resources and helping to balance the local grid. In addition, electrifying Sunnyvale’s school bus fleet will have significant positive effects on our children's health, reduce CO2 emissions, and eliminate local particulate matter pollution. These benefits will be shared equally by all members of of our community without regard to their socio-economic background.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of people affected. (250 words)

This project can start with a single bus and scale to the entire Sunnyvale school bus fleet from there. Initial funding for the bus and infrastructure cost would come from the regular transportation budget and would be heavily supplemented with funding from incentive programs. Operation costs would be reduced compared to the status quo due to lower fuel and maintenance costs, creating savings for the school district in the long term.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (500 words)

School bus electrification initiatives are being pursued throughout the US. Due to a growing demand, electric school buses are available from multiple vendors today. In a first feasibility phase the evaluation of routes, depots, ranges, vendors, electric infrastructure,.. would be required. The Mobility House has advised multiple agencies on electrification strategies, depot layout, permitting and other topics related to electric vehicle deployments. They higher upfront cost of electric buses can be mitigated in two ways: Funding for zero emission buses and Vehicle-2-Grid (V2G) technology. There are multiple programs for school bus funding, as well as different agencies that can support the process of applications for funding. Some of these are: Hybrid Voucher Incentive Program (HVIP), Carl Moyer Program, AB 617: Community Air Protection Funds, Volkswagen Mitigation and, Prop 39: School Bus Replacement Program. V2G is a game-changing proposition: it can generate explicit and implicit cash flows substantial enough to allow ZEV school buses to compete without subsidies. Multiple projects have shown technical feasibility of V2G and this would be an additional project emphasizing the feasibility.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (300 words)

In a next step it would be helpful to have a discussion with school bus operators and learn more about their day-to-day operations. This discussion should also help to get a better understanding of operating time, standing time, range requirements, age of the current fleet, fleet size, electrical wiring at the depot and many other factors. A general enthusiasm on the side of the operator facilitates these type of projects. Involving the utility in an early project stage is normally also advisable. The project would require facilities manager’s input to understand whether grid interconnection upgrades would be required.

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