Flipping the Switch on Electric School Buses: Working with Electric Utilities: Module 1 (Text Version)

This is a text version of the video for Flipping the Switch on Electric School Buses: Working with Electric Utilities: Module 1.

John Gonzales: Welcome to Part 2 of Flipping the Switch on Electric Bus series, where we will provide an introduction of working with your electric utility. Flipping the Switch series contains a number of parts on electric school bus technical assistance, eight in total. This is currently where we are at in the series. In the upcoming parts, we'll discuss vehicle requirements; charging infrastructure; vehicle infrastructure planning and solutions; vehicle in-use and performance; training, both driver and technician; and finally, cost factors. This part of the series consists of two modules. These modules will be "Working with Electric Utilities," and Module 2 will be "Various Utility Rate Structures" that you need to be aware of.

Now, let's get started with Module 1, "Working with Electric Utilities – Working with Your Utility Partner and Assessing Your Power Needs." Step one, prepare. Before discussing your EV plans with your utility, here are some things that you should start thinking about. It needs to be understood that preparing your fleet operations to transition towards an electrified fleet takes some thought and consideration. Start thinking about how many buses you would like to have long term. How is your lot laid out? And where would these buses be parked overnight? This can have a direct impact on your long-term charging considerations. Think about your future and where your chargers might be placed. Work with your operations and facilities personnel to ensure they understand your thoughts moving forward. Make the introduction – this is critical. Talk to your utility representative and understand what it will take to meet your needs. This introduction is paramount. These early discussions will pave the way toward smoother EV bus transition. Let them know your plans. How would you like to proceed moving forward? Discuss with your utility partner how they can work with you in attaining these goals. Explore if you have any incentives that they might be able to tell you about to make this process more economical. If you're struggling with this process, remember that Clean Cities coordinators can be an invaluable resource in helping you understand this process. The next slide will discuss some of these key points that need to be discussed with a utility partner.

When working with them, let them know your site layout. Bring them in for a site visit. Have them analyze your site and see if the power required will match up with your plans. If not, what will it require? What updates will be required? Will the site allow for your expansion that you desire long term? Let them know if you're planning level two or level three charging, if you're looking at any type of vehicle-to-building or vehicle-to-grid charging. Let them know all these things you're thinking about, just to make sure that you get those questions out there as part of these early plans so they can help you with your long-term goals.

Some of the key takeaways that hopefully you understand in this part of this module is really, it is critical to talk to your utility and do your research. We feel it's important to talk to your peers and others that have deployed EV buses and discuss how they've worked with their utilities. They will be a great resource. Work with your operations and maintenance personnel and make sure that they are part of the process. This is different than a traditional fuel, so understand that you're gonna have other people involved that you might not normally have. They also might have some contacts with your utilities that can help you understand how to proceed with working with your facility and how to do these upgrades. Communicate your plan with your utility, be really clear. This will enable the process to go much more smoothly. The more information, the better. Your utility will be a long-term partner in this process. Similar to conventional fuels, your relationship will have a direct relationship to your bottom line. So, like you know your fuel provider, get to know your utility provider as well. They can just really help you understand the most economical way to charge your EV buses. Now let me turn it over to Jesse Bennett for a discussion on assessing your power needs for this transition.

Jesse Bennett: Great. Thanks, John. In terms of understanding the power requirements that you'll need for these EV charging stations, or EVSE, for your new electric buses, there's a few different considerations you need to keep in mind when understanding the energy needs for these vehicles. That's really the first key element is to assess all of the daily energy needs these vehicles will need, and looking at potentially the overall daily vehicle miles traveled, as well as the vehicles' operational efficiency, often in kilowatt-hours per mile, and then any other typical auxiliary loads. This is most commonly a concern for heating and cooling requirements, and based on your climate, one or the other may be more of a concern in terms of those daily energy needs at certain times of the year. The EV charging power requirements are then dependent on each of these energy needs on a daily basis, as well as the dwell period for the vehicle, because this dwell period, when it's not driving, is the best opportunity to recharge the vehicle and will determine what level of power is needed to make sure the vehicle is always ready for its daily energy needs, and to provide all the services it's required to. Further discussions on these topics can be found in Part Three, Vehicle Requirements, and Part Four, on charging, where you can find a little bit more details on these energy needs and how to assess the specific power requirements for each.

However, based on these power needs, one of the reasons you should be concerned about this is to understand the peak demand at your site. And the reason this is a concern is because the distribution utility company must build equipment that's able to supply the peak demand that your site will consume at any time of the day. So while the utility's delivering energy to your site, they're also delivering the peak power, regardless of how often that occurs. And therefore, as you can see, there's many different pieces of equipment throughout the entire system that must take into consideration how much energy or power each of these sites required at a given time. And the installation of EVSE will sometimes increase as peak demand, and that most often occurs whenever EV charging coincides with facility peak demands. Oftentimes when this is the case, there's upgrades that are required, and sometimes those are on the facility side of things, where the fleet may be responsible for these equipment upgrades. And oftentimes, those are also going to be required from the utility's perspective. Further discussions on peak demand and how to really assess whether or not your site might require new upgrades will be found in the utility rate structure module.

Now, these upgrades and who is responsible for them, is sometimes a little different between each service territory. However, there are quite a few trends that are consistent between all buildings. For grid upgrade considerations, things the utility might be required to cover, consider this the service line, or the line coming from the main distribution lines to your building, as well as the distribution transformer, the primary lines going across the distribution circuit throughout, say, a neighborhood or a certain area of town, and then the substation capacity. However, interestingly enough, depending on your service that you receive from the utility, that distribution transformer may also be the facility upgrade considerations. And this is something you should reach out to your utility rep whenever you want to understand what your facility is responsible for. And a few other things that must be considered are the branch circuits and the wiring conduit, which are going to provide the electricity from your service panel to the EVSE, and then also those service panels or main breakers that will be protecting the equipment and ensuring they operate in a safe environment. Sometimes the utility will cover the expenses associated with their upgrades, and oftentimes these will be done in a cost-sharing environment, if it's not completely covered. However, some of the main facility upgrades each fleet should be aware of, those costs will be certainly passed on to the facility.

Some key takeaways from this section are, certainly, the power needs are highly dependent on fleet operations and energy needs, so knowing what type of operations your buses are going to be performing, how long they'll be driving, what their efficiency is, and any of those auxiliary loads, as well as working with the utility to understand which service equipment may need upgraded, and which one is owned by the facility or the utility. And then consider which equipment may need upgraded to support the installation of the new EVSE, understanding that peak demand is really a key consideration in most of those discussions.

Now thanks for listening, and that concludes Part Two of the Flipping the Switch series, "Working with Electric Utilities." Please continue on to listen to Module 2, where we will discuss the various utility rate structures that you need to be aware of. You can find all of the content for the Flipping the Switch on Electric School Bus series, including each part of the series and associated modules, as well as handouts with a summary of information, and links to all the resources mentioned today, on the Alternative Fuels Data Center, Electric School Bus page.