First vehicle-to-grid electric buses unveiled in Pekin

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PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) — New electric buses for Pekin and Hollis school districts are hitting the road in central Illinois before anywhere else in the country, thanks to a coalition of local school districts, utilities, school buses manufacturers and energy leaders committed to a green energy future.

The Central Illinois Bus-2-Grid Initiative on Tuesday, March 23, unveiled two yellow Blue Bird buses equipped with the newest technology at the Pekin Transportation Department. The buses are the first of their kind in the nation.

The new patented technology from Nuuve Corporation is called vehicle-to-grid (V2G).  The technology results in zero emissions and allows school bus batteries to store energy when the grid doesn’t have immediate need for it. Down the line, the schools hope to sell stored battery energy to the grid.

“I don’t have to pay a bus company. I don’t have to lease one. These are good for … they’re saying 10-12 years, so other than the bus drivers cost, the maintenance is low,” said Chad Jones, Superintendent of Hollis Consolidated School District.

The money for the buses, which cost approximately $500,000 apiece, was funded by an $8.6 million settlement stemming from a clean air lawsuit involving the Edwards Coal Power Plant.

The plant is located just two miles from Hollis Consolidated School District #328 and is slated to close by the end of 2022 as part of the settlement.

Pekin’s mayor said the buses can also serve as a source of electricity in a power outage.

“It provides a service to the city. The power pack that’s under this specific bus, if we were to lose power here at the facility or anything, we just plug it in and we’re good to go until repairs are made. So its more than just a bus,” said Mayor Mark Luft, who also represents Illinois’ 91st district in the General Assembly.

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-17) said these buses can be looked to as a model for future plans, as federal lawmakers attempt to pass sweeping infrastructure legislation with a potential massive price tag of $3 trillion.

“Something like this is part of the answer to the climate, to our energy problems that we have in our nation, and also to help with our kids and getting them back to school,” she said.

Jones said the bus “drives like a big golf cart” and is very quiet.

“My only worry for this electric bus is kids missing the bus in the morning because the electric bus is so quiet you can barely hear it,” he said.

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