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Fleets

4 Steps to Plan an Electric School Bus Fleet

By

January 26, 2023

Governments and local authorities around the world are taking steps towards greater sustainability, with school districts across the US now eligible for funding to switch from diesel-powered buses to electric ones. 

Enabled by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the Clean School Bus Program, an initiative that makes $5 billion worth of funding for school transport fleets available over a 5 year period. 

The funding allows fleet operators to access resources that enable a transition to low/zero emission buses and reliable charging operations. Electric school buses allow local authorities to boost their eco credentials, meet sustainability targets, reduce costs, and run a more reliable service (electric buses have fewer moving parts which means less mechanical issues). For more information about funding opportunities for electric school buses, be sure to check out our report, "How to Electrify a School Bus Fleet."

Therefore, it’s important for operators of all fleet types (not just school buses) to understand the process of moving from traditional vehicles to electric vehicles – from securing funding and planning a strategy to implementing and managing charging infrastructure.

In this article, we’ll discuss the steps you need to take to get funding for electric school buses (ESBs), calculate the total cost of ownership (TCO), and set out a coherent plan to ensure successful charging operations. We’ll also explore some of the EV charger brands that are available for buses, and how you can monitor your charging operations.

Step 1: Research and Obtain Funding

The first step is to research the available funding opportunities and how to apply for them. The best place to start is the EPA website which provides details on the Clean School Bus Program. Here you’ll find information on when the window for applications is open and how to apply.

At this stage, it’s also a good idea to research the benefits of moving to an electric school bus fleet. A brief summary of the advantages are:

  • Reduced operating costs, leading to a lower total cost of ownership (TCO)
  • Less air pollution, improving community and student health and safety
  • Less maintenance required
  • Easier refueling (when efficient charging systems are in place).

To fully appreciate the real savings possible by electrifying your school bus fleet, you must first understand what your total cost of ownership (TCO) is. Calculating TCO involves:

  • Deciding on the type and brand of electric school bus to buy
  • Calculating the daily/monthly mileage of the buses
  • Understanding how the funding incentives work – funding of vehicle purchases, utility programs, carbon-emission credits, etc.

Detailed reports on TCO for electric vehicles in various regions can be found here.

Step 2: Prepare Your Utilities and Select Your Route

Before electrifying your fleet of school buses, you firstly need to prepare your site for the increased energy demands. To do this, you should fully understand your site’s power capacity and whether it has to be increased. Asking your utility provider the following questions will help:

  • How much power is available at the site right now?
  • Is the level of available energy enough to charge the number of vehicles you want to buy?
  • Are there any vehicle to grid (V2G) programs  available?
  • Would charging optimization software help?

Running an accurate simulation tool can assist you in preparing utilities and route selection. You can use Ampcontrol’s simulation tool to get a realistic detailed analysis of charging behavior and energy usage at the site. 

To use our specialist simulation tool, all you need to do is input the relevant data points and the built-in AI engine will do the rest. You get a full analysis report providing charging profiles, smart charging recommendations, and a realistic overview of how efficient your charging operations can be.

Step 3: Select Your Charging Infrastructure

Once you have conducted thorough research and analyzed your site and planned EV fleet, you should have a pretty accurate picture of how many electric buses your site can handle and the charging infrastructure you need. You should also consider how software can help manage energy usage and how different technologies, such as load management, can reduce the number of chargers you may need at your site.

At this stage, you can go ahead and choose the electric buses that best suit your requirements and order the charging stations. You can then plan and schedule the installation of the charging points based on the lead time for the hardware. 

When choosing chargers, you should familiarize yourself with the difference between AC and DC charging. For a small to average size fleet, AC or slow DC charging is probably enough to meet your needs. For larger fleets, DC fast chargers may be best suited. 

If you are looking to implement V2G technology, there are only a few chargers that have the functionality, so be sure to thoroughly check the charging point specification before ordering.

It is important to select routes that match your charging capabilities and capacity. You should set out all the proposed routes and calculate the estimated mileage of each bus per day. Although EV buses have a high battery range, you should still verify that it is enough to cover the route, with some to spare to allow for traffic diversions. You may need to adjust some routes to meet the available battery capacity. 

Step 4: Plan Your Charging Station Management

The next stage is to plan your charging station operations. Your operations management should include the following:

  • Who will plug the buses into the charging stations? Drivers, site staff, maintenance staff, etc.
  • How will you monitor and maintain the charging hardware?
  • What procedures will be in place to address charging problems, such as faulty charging stations, power outages, etc.?
  • How can you make your charging operations as efficient as possible?

The most effective way to monitor your charging operations and make sure they are as efficient as possible is to implement charging management software

A charging management software solution such as Ampcontrol helps you to optimize charging by capturing data, analyzing it thoroughly, and automating elements of the charging system to get the best results. It will help you to achieve maximum cost-efficiency while running a reliable EV charging site.

Conclusion

Transitioning to an electric school bus fleet has benefits for the environment, the local area, and for fleet operators. Electric buses produce zero emissions, are much quieter, more reliable, and cost less to run – especially when smart charging systems are applied.

The following steps will help you to achieve your bus electrification goals:

  1. Research and obtain funding
  2. Prepare your utilities and select your route
  3. Select your charging infrastructure
  4. Plan your charging station management

For more information, check out our report, "How to Electrify a School Bus Fleet," to learn how to electrify your school bus fleet in six steps, from funding opportunities to the operation of charge points.

To discover how Ampcontrol can help you to implement smart charging for your electric vehicle fleet, get in touch today.

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