Deal Spotlight: Can school buses balance the electric grid?

The team at

ImpactAlpha

ImpactAlpha, February 2 — The $1.3 billion valuation for electric school bus maker Zum reflects not only the value of giving kids a cleaner way to get to school. The Redwood City, Calif., startup raised $140 million to build a fleet of 10,000 electric school buses over the next three years.

When not in use, the buses serve effectively as batteries on wheels, providing power back to the electricity grid.

Along with its raise, Zum formed a partnership with software developer AutoGrid to manage more than one gigawatt of energy storage capacity, enough to power over one million homes for up to four hours. The fleet will become one of the world’s largest virtual power plants, or VPP, when fully deployed.

Zum last month was awarded $26 million from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program.

Vehicle-to-grid

Backup storage and grid resilience is worth a lot to utilities, and to communities as well. The Electrification Coalition last year provided districts with a handbook for using electric school buses to power schools and shelters in emergencies.

Just this week, Baltimore City Public Schools added 25 electric buses to its fleet, with the help of a $9.4 million EPA grant.

Generate Capital, which this week raised $1.5 billion in equity, has a joint venture with Georgia-based electric bus maker Blue Bird Corp. “to accelerate the transition to clean air and transportation that all of our families, communities, and school districts are demanding,” said Generate’s Scott Jacobs.

In addition to its vehicle-to-grid, or V2G capabilities, Zum touts its AI-assisted route scheduling and app that alerts parents when students board the buses.

“Zum is on a mission to revolutionize student transportation,” said CEO Ritu Narayan, “moving beyond the status quo towards a future where innovative technologies are used to advance sustainability efforts.”