The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) initiated a pilot project to test electric school buses in school transportation operations. The pilot project was a first-of-its-kind deployment of electric school bus technologies in cold weather environments in the United States. Through this project, three electric school buses were deployed at three school districts around the state and bus operations and reliability tracked for approximately one year. The project was designed to understand the opportunities and challenges associated with using electric school buses as a strategy to provide safe, reliable, cost effective school transportation.
Electric school buses also present an enormous opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from school transportation, as well as other tailpipe pollutants. Diesel is known to be particularly harmful to both children’s health and the climate. A primary barrier to electric school bus adoption is a much higher upfront vehicle cost relative to diesel buses. However, there is potential that the upfront costs of electric buses are mitigated and even negated in the long term by reduced fueling and maintenance costs. This assumption has not been rigorously tested in the field, and that was a key objective of this pilot. In addition, this project sought to test the potential of electric school buses to interact with the electric grid through the use of vehicle to grid (V2G), as well as interaction with local energy use through vehicle to building (V2B) technology. Vehicle-to-grid interaction can reduce electric school bus costs through financial paybacks to school districts for bus-provided grid services, and strengthen the resiliency of local energy systems.
This pilot project was funded through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) with roughly $2 million and administered by the Massachusetts State Department of Energy Resources. RGGI funding was also used to procure consultant support to help manage implementation of the pilot project and lead an evaluation of the effort. This work, provided by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) included assistance with soliciting participating schools, evaluating available technology, developing procurement materials, and providing ongoing support to the schools throughout the demonstration project. VEIC also tracked vehicle reliability, vehicle energy efficiency and energy consumption, and led evaluation of the pilot overall.
The project was initiated in the fall of 2015 and following a solicitation process open to Massachusetts public school districts, three school districts were selected for electric school bus deployment: Amherst Regional Public School District, Cambridge Public School District, and Concord Public School District. In the fall of 2016, three electric school buses were deployed at the three sites and tracked for approximately a year, into early 2018. Although the pilot project faced a range of challenges, ultimately it was successful in gathering valuable data and moving the electric school bus field closer to more widespread deployment.