EL CAJON, Calif. (KABC) -- The Cajon Valley Union School District uses just over 40 gas and diesel-powered buses to get kids to school. But they also have seven electric buses as the district tries to make its fleet more environmentally-friendly.
"The kids love them. They love (that) they're quiet, they're clean. These particular models, the air conditioning on them is brilliant which is great for Southern California," said Tysen Brodwolf, Director of Transportation for the district.
The buses are more than just electric vehicles. Because of first-of-its-kind technology, when the buses are sitting idle and not transporting kids, they have the potential to transport electricity to the power grid.
"We're actually able to use these charging stations, combined with Nuvve's platform to export the power from the vehicles onto the grid when we're called upon to do so," said Nuvve President and CCO Ted Smith.
San Diego-based technology company Nuvve is testing a pilot program called "V2G" or "Vehicle to Grid" in El Cajon.
Just last week, the district provided San Diego Gas & Electric with surplus electricity for the first time by discharging unused bus power to the grid. The program is possible because of Nuvve's technology, the large batteries needed for the buses, and because the bus schedules are predictable - parked for the night at 4 p.m., just as demand for power peaks.
"Our main focus is to get kids to and from school safely, but if there's other levels of service we can use these vehicles for... like supporting the power grid, I think that's a great, useful, dual purpose for these vehicles," said Brodwolf.
A bus returns from its scheduled route with roughly 70% of its power remaining. Recharging is scheduled for after midnight when power can be purchased at its lowest price. That makes selling the surplus power at peak prices a positive revenue source for the district on a passive asset.
"When I say that they can be aggregated as a virtual power plant? You can actually use them to provide grid services and establish a cash flow for those services," Smith added.
The amount of power provided through the V2G program is limited by the seven buses in El Cajon's program, but the hope is the entire fleet would eventually be used as a virtual power plant, and every school district across the state could help stabilize our power supply.
"This is the point where things are starting to scale and it is very exciting," Smith said.
"We all know that diesel engines are the biggest culprits of polluting the air that we breathe and we want to be a part of making that go away, making it better," said Brodwolf.