Today’s Solutions: March 31, 2023

Fleet vehicles, including public transportation vehicles, are critical for embracing a transition to fossil fuel-free transportation, but committing to transitioning a whole city bus or train system to electric power is no easy feat. Fortunately, microgrids could play a critical role in this transition.

Microgrids offer increased resiliency with localized power, but they also require significant coordination between EV makers, regulators, utilities and technology vendors. There are currently eight operational public transportation microgrids in the US, but a few key conditions could expand their reach.

To make microgrids a solution for EV transportation expansion, these microgrids must be able to withstand power outages and shortages, offer energy savings, be connected to legitimate renewable sources, and be adaptable and flexible to adjust for system changes.

Transit systems themselves are not equipped to handle the installation and management of a microgrid, but targeted partnerships with firms could offer the perfect solution. For example, German industrial giant Siemens has helped implement public transportation microgrids in Europe and Asia with great success. One project, scheduled to launch in the Czech Republic in 2022, features software to automatically adapt the charging processes to the bus schedules and optimizes energy consumption based on scheduling.

As explained by Arup, a global engineering and design firm, public transportation microgrids could run off renewable energy with on-site natural gas to power charging in the event of a renewables shortage.

In Martha’s Vineyard, a new microgrid will power the region’s electric buses, using strategic scheduling and induction charging stations to power the buses through 300 mile circuits without stopping to recharge.

The new bipartisan infrastructure bill highlights green transportation as a key goal, but knowing where to start in building this reality is more difficult. Public transportation systems are a logical place to begin and the versatility of renewable energy options, combined with the systems’ fixed schedules and off hours, make them the perfect candidate for microgrid use to power themselves.

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