3 Tips for Successful Electric School Bus Fleet Planning

November 10, 2022

Authored by Erik BigelowIn October, the Biden Administration announced it would provide nearly $1 billion to school districts for the procurement and deployment of more than 2,300 electric school buses. This historic investment in zero-emission school buses will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save schools money, and better protect children's health - but will require proper planning and technical support to ensure success. Fleet electrification is complex and requires a myriad of decisions around route planning, charging strategy, equipment selection, infrastructure development, resource management, and more. The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) is here to help successfully plan, deploy, and monitor ESB fleets.

Among the wealth of information available to support school bus fleet electrification, a great stop is the newly released website from the World Resources Institute (WRI) - The Electric School Bus Initiative. CTE is partnering with WRI to provide detailed fleet planning to three schools to support learning on the challenges that come with planning for a new electric fleet. Some things we are happy to share from our experience to date:

AC Charging for (most) Everyone:

If you have to make a planning decision today, more than half of bus routes we have analyzed are well covered by charging with a single 80A Level 2 charger (19kW). There are exceptions, and most fleets have some routes that need larger batteries, or high-power mid-day charging. Leaving space for these more challenging routes, Level 2 charging will likely work for the first half of your fleet. Rural fleets and those primarily using Type A buses are an exception, and will see greater challenges with longer routes, and smaller batteries, which can increase the need for higher power charging. Finding the right balance between infrastructure cost and operating constraints is critical, but most fleets can work with some Level 2 charging.

Skip the Shared 50kW DC Charger:

A 50kW DC charger shared across two buses is not much faster than two separate 19kW Level 2 chargers, but is more expensive to purchase, install, and manage. Unless this type of charger answers a specific need, the extra benefit may be overshadowed by the additional costs.

Install Extra Charging Stations when Possible:

Chargers can be out of service, nudged by a bumper, and cords can get run over. If you are short on chargers, keeping your fleet in service will be a challenge. You may find it easier to add a few buses later if additional grant funding becomes available, but adding additional chargers can quickly turn into a large infrastructure project.If you have more complicated questions, reach out and CTE's unbiased industry experts will be happy to help answer your questions. If you need to choose between faster charging or larger batteries, or your utility tells you there isn't enough power available to support your planning needs, or if you are looking for a comprehensive phasing plan, we've done this before and can guide you to the best solution.