California Energy Commission Grant to Advance Electric Bus Fleet Systems


The California Energy Commission (CEC) has awarded nearly $2 million to Prospect Silicon Valley and a Silicon Valley collaborative, including the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), to research, develop and demonstrate an advanced energy management and grid services system for electric transit bus fleets.

As public transit agencies across the country move toward adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), this project will optimize performance of the new technology and minimize stress on the state electric grid.

According to Prospect Silicon Valley, developing vehicle-grid integration (VGI) strategies will advance the state’s goal of reaching 1.5 million ZEVs on California’s roadways by 2025, as well as its goal of having 50% of state electricity generated from renewable resources by 2030.

As reported, the advanced energy management system that will be developed with this funding will reduce costs for charging electric buses, minimize the impact of bus charging on the grid, and provide valuable services that assist the integration of intermittent renewables, such as solar and wind.

Prospect Silicon Valley and VTA are partnering on this project with national and regional leaders in advanced electric bus, vehicle charging, and energy management systems, including Proterra, Kisensum, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), Cisco Systems, CALSTART, Energy Solutions, EV Alliance, and NOVA Workforce Development.

The four-year “Advanced Transit Bus VGI” project will be closely followed by transit industry and other transportation providers, as they begin planning for their own fleet transitions. The project will apply integrated systems to reduce charging costs through demand management, demand response, and wholesale ancillary services such as frequency regulation through unidirectional charging control. These features will be integrated with commercial fleet management tools for the first fully integrated energy management in a heavy-duty fleet.

Currently, VTA plans to start using five electric buses in revenue service in late 2017, expanding the fleet to 35 over the next two years. VTA says it has acquired smart networked charging stations, which will provide the foundation for the Advanced Transit Bus VGI project.  VTA will provide engineering services, fleet management requirements, in field testing, and collection of charging/energy usage data from the fleet.

Working with its Cleaver Devices VTA dispatch software provider, VTA will be updating the dispatch software to improve EV fleet management and coordinating with PG&E on rate usage and interaction with the VTA one megawatt solar installation.

“This project will provide a critical cornerstone towards moving our entire fleet to zero-emission vehicles, and we are excited to be partnering with nationally recognized industry experts on this important project that will advance the state’s strategic electrification goals,” says Nuria Fernandez, CEO for VTA.

Specific project benefits include the following:

  • Lower costs: The project will lower costs for transit agencies and utilities by shifting power demand and providing revenue from grid services.
  • Environmental and health benefits: Supporting the transition to cleaner transportation, reducing greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants, including in underserved communities.
  • Energy security: Reducing exposure to the volatile price fluctuations of petroleum and allowing for domestic production of the vehicle feedstock (i.e., electricity).

ProspectSV is leading the project, providing strategic management, partnership development and knowledge transfer activities.

“Through our expertise supporting innovators in electric vehicle and advanced energy systems, we will introduce innovative technologies for achieving the project goals and bring the best practices to the transit community,” asserts Ruth Cox, CEO of ProspectSV.

Kisensum will enhance its existing electric vehicle energy services management software to support VTA’s needs.

“This project is exciting on several levels. As a demonstration project, it will show that electric bus VGI can be a reality at scale. This project will build on the existing rich feature set of Kisensum’s software,” says Clay Collier, CEO.

NREL will apply its expertise spearheading the research, development and deployment needed to put sustainable transportation solutions on the road by providing advanced analytics on the optimal energy services to target and potential revenues for VTA based on VTA bus utilization. In addition, NREL will provide an analysis of the opportunity of VGI for transit agencies across the state.

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