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Hickenlooper Introduces Bill to Promote Vehicle-to-Grid Charging for Electric School Buses

Sep 29, 2022

BIDIRECTIONAL Act would create program for electric school bus deployment with capability to help power grid while not in use

Bill builds on efforts like Durango’s first-in-the-state pilot program run by school district 9-R and La Plata Electric Association

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper was joined by Senators Michael Bennet, Amy Klobuchar, Angus King, Martin Heinrich, and Tina Smith to introduce the Bus Integration Dedicated to Improving Resilience, Eliminating Congestion, and Triggering Innovation Over Numerous Applications and Localities (BIDIRECTIONAL) Act. The bill would create a Department of Energy program dedicated to deploying electric school buses with “bidirectional energy flow capability,” or the ability to use their batteries to power the electrical grid when not being driven. 

Also known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G), bidirectional energy flows between a vehicle and the grid makes use of existing electric vehicle infrastructure to meet demand on the grid during peak times. V2G technologies have been demonstrated, but remain commercially unproven. Investment is needed to scale.

Electric school buses are ideal for V2G technologies because they have large batteries, sit idle for long, predictable periods, and operate in fleets. V2G offsets the upfront cost of an electric school bus by providing the value to school districts of returning energy to the grid.

“V2G will help balance clean energy supply with peak demand,” said Hickenlooper. “Durango 9-R is showing how much of a success this idea is, we just need to deploy it nationwide!”

“Deploying more electric school buses is critical to preserve clean air for our kids – and if we do it right, we can also put these buses to work to power our electric grid, which is exactly what schools in Durango, Colorado are doing,” said Bennet. “Our bill will jumpstart innovative vehicle-to-grid technology, make smarter use of existing infrastructure, and help build an energy grid that accelerates clean energy, cuts pollution, and fights climate change.”

“Electric school buses can improve air quality for our children while reducing emissions,” said Klobuchar. “This legislation will allow school buses to deliver even more benefits for our communities by deploying their batteries to power the electric grid, helping to make our power grid more resilient and lower costs for consumers during times of high energy demand.” 

“Vehicle-to-grid school buses are another common sense tool that can help to create a reliable grid, promote clean energy, and cut costs for local towns and school districts,” said King. “The BIDIRECTIONAL Act will assist school districts across Maine and America transition to electric buses and make sure these vehicles provide greater stability to their communities. Combined with electric bus investments in the Inflation Reduction Act, this will be an important step towards unlocking America’s clean energy future. It’s a simple, win-win bill and I hope it can get bipartisan support across Congress.”

“The bus fleets that take our kids to school are an ideal place to demonstrate the long-term cost and health benefits of electric vehicles. The BIDIRECTIONAL Act would make it easier for New Mexico public school districts to afford the upfront costs of replacing their aging diesel vehicles with state-of-the-art electric busses. It will also allow districts to work with their local utilities or electric co-ops to create two-way vehicle-to-grid systems that use the storage in EV batteries to balance overall energy use and add more resilience to our power grid,” said Heinrich.

“Making the switch to electric vehicles and building a clean, resilient electric grid are critical to addressing the climate crisis,” said Smith. “Electric vehicles need the grid for charging, but they can also make it more reliable and clean by returning electricity to the grid when it is most needed.  This exchange is a win-win as we look to make our electric grid cleaner and more resilient. This vehicle-to-grid bidirectional exchange is particularly useful when it comes to electric school buses, and could provide a valuable revenue stream for school districts.”

Last month, Hickenlooper visited Durango school district 9-R to see their pioneering V2G pilot program. The bill builds on efforts like 9-R’s and the $5 billion that passed as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to help school districts around the country adopt electric school buses.

The BIDIRECTIONAL Act is supported by Advanced Energy Economy, Blue Bird, bp Pulse Fleet (formerly Amply), Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, Community Organization for Resource Efficiency (CORE), EDF, Electrification Coalition, Environment America, Highland Electric, Lion Electric, La Plata Electric Association, NRECA, Nuvve, PIRG, Proterra, RMI, and Xcel Energy. For quotes from supporting organizations, CLICK HERE.

“We applaud Senator Hickenlooper’s leadership to encourage deployment of electric school buses. In combination with the right state policies, this bill presents a great opportunity to both improve the quality of air that our children breathe and help support the grid in a way that benefits all customers.  We look forward to working closely with the school districts we serve to encourage the use of electric school buses and evaluate the safe, reliable and affordable integration of the buses’ vehicle-to-grid capabilities on our system,” said Frank Prager, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Security and External Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer, Xcel Energy.

“For nearly 100 years, Blue Bird Corporation has been recognized as a technology leader and innovator of school buses in North America. Today, the company is the proven clean student transportation leader with more than 700 electric school buses in operation. All Blue Bird electric buses come standard with groundbreaking vehicle- to-grid (V2G) capability. Blue Bird lauds the proposed bipartisan BIDIRECTIONAL Act to advance the deployment of electric school buses, as well as vehicle-to-grid (V2G), vehicle-to- building (V2B), and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies. Deploying V2G-enabled school buses will promote grid resiliency, affordability, and sustainability nationwide,” said Britton Smith, Senior Vice President of Electrification and Chief Strategy Officer, Blue Bird Corporation.

“We can increasingly power our cars, buses, and buildings with clean, green, renewable energy, and not a moment too soon following yet another summer of heat waves, floods and fires made worse by climate change. Swapping out old, polluting diesel school buses for clean electric ones is a common-sense step school districts and cities can take right now that will make a big impact. The buses have no tailpipe emissions, can save money over time and can even help stabilize the electric system with vehicle-to-grid technology. Sen. Hickenlooper’s BIDIRECTIONAL Act would help accelerate the shift to clean buses that also provide us with clean power. Let’s roll!” said Lisa Frank, executive director of Environment America’s Washington Legislative Office.

“As our nation works towards a future that depends on electricity to power the American economy, finding innovative ways to meet consumer and community needs is crucial. Electric school buses could be a key part of this transition if they’re able to provide backup power to the grid when not in use. We thank Sen. Hickenlooper for his leadership with this bill, which will help promote continued innovation in electric vehicle technology,” said Louis Finkel, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

For full text of the bill CLICK HERE

Specifically, the BIDIRECTIONAL Act would:

  • Create a Department of Energy program dedicated to deploying electric school buses with bidirectional energy flow capability with priority given to applications that demonstrate economic viability and seek to use V2G buses in regions or applications where V2G is promising but not yet deployed.
    • These buses could be used for V2G, vehicle-to-building (V2B), and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) applications, which includes grid balancing, microgrid services, offsetting building energy use, and resiliency applications such as using an electric bus as a mobile power station after natural disasters.
  • Require states’ public utility commissions to consider measures to promote V2G integration.
  • Require DOE to provide a report on the existing V2G school bus pilot programs


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