Lee County Schools

Giving students a healthier ride to school

Lee County Schools have started to electrify their school bus fleet and ultimately they hope to power their new electric buses with solar power provided by photovoltaic arrays on campus. Secure Solar Futures is helping the school division to integrate two-way charging and, as part of a pilot project, the company and the schools will work together to study the potential for vehicle-to-building (V2B) power sharing between EV bus batteries and school buildings during summer break and other idle times. Charging bus batteries when power is cheap at night and then selling power back into the grid during the day when power is more expensive can offer schools an additional revenue source.

Electric school buses will offer a variety of benefits that improve service, save money and even help recruit and retain bus drivers:

Safety. Electric school buses are built and tested by the same standards as any other bus on the road. Battery packs on electric buses are well insulated and designed to safely withstand major impacts.

Full range, quick charge. Today’s electric buses can go more than 100 miles on a full charge, enough to cover the vast majority of routes in urban, suburban and rural areas. And EV buses can be fully charged in 3-4 hours in between morning and afternoon runs.

Smooth, quiet ride with plenty of pickup. Bus drivers love EV buses because they’re more fun to drive. They’re so quiet that the driver can communicate easily with the kids. As a bonus, a quieter bus ride leads to calmer, better behaved riders. In today’s tight labor market, transportation managers know that electric buses will help them hire and retain the best bus drivers.

Cheaper to fuel and maintain. The electricity to run EV buses is much cheaper per mile than diesel fuel required by traditional buses, and energy efficient features in electric buses like regenerative braking make the most of the power they use. The electric motor that runs an EV bus has 99% fewer moving parts than an internal-combustion engine. That makes an electric bus up to 50% cheaper to maintain.

Backup power and selling power when off duty. With bi-directional charging, bus batteries can offer backup power to school buildings when the power goes out.

In addition to EV buses, and at no additional cost, Secure Solar Futures, in conjunction with National Energy Education Development (NEED), offers a classroom curriculum that complies with Virginia Standards of Learning from grades K-12. The curriculum includes teacher training, lesson plans and hands-on kits for science experiments on sustainable power.

The Challenge

Convert the school system’s bus fleet from diesel to electric

The Result

A pilot program will create more opportunities for cost savings