Bennet, Hickenlooper Introduce Bill to Promote Vehicle-to-Grid Charging for Electric School Buses

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. — Yesterday, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper joined Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) 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.

“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.”

“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!”

Durango School District 9-R is pioneering a V2G pilot program. The bill builds on efforts like 9-R’s and the $5 billion that passed as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law 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. An extensive list of quotes from supporting organizations are available HERE.

“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.

“La Plata Electric Association is actively engaged with our school districts in V2G fleet electrification. The Bidirectional Act addresses key components required to sustain and scale the natural partnership between utilities and school districts. Through structured collaboration with shared benefits funding for electric school bus fleets can be achieved in the long term. Establishing these partnerships based on mutual benefits will help our communities achieve a clean, healthy, and affordable means of transporting our children,” said La Plata Electric Association (LPEA).

“Electric vehicles improve our national security, grid security, and climate resiliency, as they can serve as mobile power and storage units through vehicle-to-grid technology. The Electrification Coalition is pleased to support the BIDIRECTIONAL Act, which will create a dedicated program at the Department of Energy that will deploy electric school buses with bidirectional charging capabilities. The EC has long advocated for deploying more electric school buses due to the grid resiliency benefits they provide to communities, in addition to the clean air and carbon reduction benefits,said Ben Prochazka, Executive Director of the Electrification Coalition.

“Electric vehicle-to-grid school buses provide an incredible opportunity to reduce costs for schools, stabilize the grid, improve the air quality for children on school buses, and combat climate change. This legislation will help scale this beneficial technology and support schools and communities looking to strengthen their grid and reduce their dependency on gasoline and diesel,” said Clay Stranger, Managing Director of Carbon Free Mobility, RMI

The full text of the bill is available 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