White Plains e-bus
(Image credit: ConEdison video)

In 2018, five electric school buses hit the streets of White Plains, New York. They provide a quiet ride with no tailpipe emissions. Soon, they’ll do even more.

Ari Kahn is with Con Edison, the utility serving White Plains. As electric buses became available, Con Edison began considering their potential benefits.

“We were able to kind of come in and say, ‘Huh, now that a school bus is electric, what other capabilities does it have?’” Kahn says.

Con Edison is leading a pilot project to use White Plains’ buses as a backup energy source. In the summer, when they’re not being driven, the buses can charge up at night, and then the electricity stored in the batteries can be sent back to the grid as needed.

Kahn says this can help the utility meet demand for electricity at peak times – such as hot afternoons when air conditioners are running.

One bus does not provide a lot of power, but there are almost half a million school buses in the U.S., so Kahn says it’s a strategy that could be scaled up.

The utilities would pay for the electricity, so Kahn says the arrangement could help school bus operators recoup some of the cost of an electric bus.

“They have an opportunity to make money using their school buses as summertime batteries,” he says.

Kahn says it’s just one added benefit of investing in clean buses for kids across the country.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Jan Ellen Spiegel

Jan Ellen Spiegel is a long-time Connecticut-based journalist whose career has included radio, television, print, and digital reporting. She has won awards for her reporting on energy, environment, climate...