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Zum EV charging station with school buses.

Zum

The nightlife of school buses is about to get more interesting.

Zum, which provides student transportation including EV buses to 4,000 schools across the country, is partnering with the Oakland Unified School District to start selling power stored in EV batteries back to the California utility grid.

Oakland is the first school district in the U.S. to go fully electric with its buses and will now be the first to test the concept of V2G (vehicle to grid) bidirectional charging. In effect, instead of the one-way charge into the vehicle, the school buses will be able to send their battery power back to the grid through Zum charging infrastructure.

Zum estimates that 2.1 gigawatt hours of energy can be sent from batteries back to the California grid annually. The company’s goal is to add 10,000 bidirectional EV school buses across the U.S. with 300 gigawatt hours of energy available to power grids each year. San Francisco Unified and Los Angeles Unified, much larger districts than Oakland, are expected to follow, Zum said. It also works with school districts in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Utah, and Virginia.

Zum ranked No. 31 on the 2024 CNBC Disruptor 50 list

More coverage of the 2024 CNBC Disruptor 50

There have been pilots across the country to test school bus V2G business models, but Zum says the time has come to move beyond the test phase.

“We at Zum strongly believe it is time to move beyond pilots and deploy sustainability solutions at scale. Converting the Oakland Unified school bus fleet to 100% electric with VPP [virtual power plant] capability is the right step in that direction,” said Ritu Narayan, founder and CEO of Zum, in a release.

According to Zum, the 27 million students moved across the country to and from schools twice daily is the largest mass transit system in the country. The roughly 500,000 school buses are mostly diesel, contributing to emissions. Zum has the goal of being a net-zero transport provider.

Pacific Gas and Electric, which is based in Oakland, has partnered with Zum to enable its bidirectional charging station for EV buses in Oakland.

Zum EV school buses at a charging station.

Zum

The concept is considered a strong one given the fact that school buses are not in use during peak energy demand hours, for example, between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. This allows the buses, and their owners, to execute an energy arbitrage trade: charging up for their core daily task of moving students when energy prices are lower, and feeding battery storage back onto the grid when utilities will pay more for it per kilowatt/hour. As owner of the buses in use in Oakland, Zum will be the one to receive revenue from the grid deal, but in other cases where school districts own the buses, they can generate revenue. In some cases, the revenue from power sales could be split.

Ram Ambatipudi, senior vice president of business development at EV Connect, which provides EV charging solutions, said the school bus model is one of the most promising in the area of using EV battery storage in a bidirectional nature. He said one of the biggest challenges is getting utilities to set a predetermined rate schedule that will allow for the arbitrage play across power markets, generating the revenue opportunity for the battery owners.

“There aren’t a lot of established rate schedules,” Ambatipudi said. In addition, a lot has to go right to make the model work and is still being tested. “It’s been more of a pilot level because that interplay has to happen between the vehicle charging station hardware, and software management of the station, and the backfeeding into grid and having the economic benefit paid out by the utility. “Those market developments have yet to come,” he said.

The idea is similar in some ways to how owners of rooftop solar systems have been able to feed power back onto the grid in some markets, but in recent years, there has been pushback against these “net metering” relationships, especially in California. With buses, though, there is one key difference: the buses are not in use during the most important times of the day for the grid to have more power, and the buses can recharge at off-peak demand hours. Many rooftop solar power owners were selling energy supply back onto the grid when it was less needed.

And the arbitrage economics make sense: bus owners charge the vehicles during the lowest-cost periods so they can allocate excess battery power to be sold back into the grid when it is at its highest economic value.

There are many applications to take stored power in EV batteries and use as a supply, such as Ford pitching its F-150 Lightning EV as a home backup power source for when the grid is down and saying that has shown a surprising level of consumer appeal. But the school bus model may be the most effective at the largest scale.

“The low-hanging fruit from what I’ve seen is the school bus model,” Ambatipudi said. It’s not just the cycle of dropping off kids during the morning and then remaining idle at a depot during the middle part of day, and then cycling again in the afternoon and early evening into idle state again. During summer months, the buses are largely idle. “Buses can be used as essentially arbitrage devices to charge when power is cheap and discharge when needed,” he said.

Pilot CEO Adam Wright on EV charging: We think demand is going to push through

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The Invanti Tornado is the Swiss Army knife of e-bikes [Video]

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The Invanti Tornado is the Swiss Army knife of e-bikes [Video]

Want your electric bike to have utility as well as comfort and style? Then, the Invanti Tornado, with its impressive array of optional accessories, could be your ideal ride.

Invanti is developing multi-functional e-bikes to reinvent the e-bike industry. It will launch an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign on May 22 for its first product, the versatile Tornado e-bike series. Early backers can purchase the Tornado for a super early bird price of $1,299, significant savings vs. gas bikes.

Invanti makes it easy to protect your e-bike from theft with its “invantimobility” app. The smart version Tornado Pro has a smart front hub lock feature that, once activated, can only be unlocked using the app.

This zippy and efficient utility e-bike has a 750W rear hub motor, 1,000 peak power, and a 48V 14.7Ah battery with Samsung cells that give a top speed of up to 25 mph. The Shimano 7-speed transmission, 80 mm travel suspension, 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes, and torque sensor means riding is smooth. It also sports a pair of 20-by-3-inch puncture-resistant tires.

The Tornado provides a range of 60 miles on pedal assist and 25 miles on throttle only. You can additionally install an extra 48V, 10.4Ah battery that you take with you, giving a cumulative total of 100 miles on pedal assist and 43.5 miles on throttle only. Plus, you can use the extra battery as a portable powerbank for your phone.

What makes the Invanti Tornado stand out is the cool accessories it comes with. Your e-bike arrives with a front rack, a rear cargo rack, a rear fork storage bag with lockout, and rear wheel mudguards. It also features front and rear lights with integrated turn signals.

Plus, it offers a choice of nine upgrade accessories, which give this bike an almost modular feel. This means you can make your e-bike bespoke:

If you want to cart around passengers, you can make it happen with the Invanti Tornado’s optional rear seat pad and passenger foot rest, and there’s also a child safety handrail. Its dual-tube aluminum alloy frame can handle payloads of up to 440 pounds.

Invanti’s super early bird price on the Tornado is $1,299, and the official crowdfunding price is $1,499.

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This startup is about to install bladeless rooftop wind turbines on box buildings

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This startup is about to install bladeless rooftop wind turbines on box buildings

Aeromine Technologies just closed a $9 million funding round, and it’s ready to scale up production of its bladeless rooftop wind turbines.

Energy research, investing, and strategy firm Veriten is the lead investor in Aeromine Technologies’ Series A funding round.

Aeromine, launched in 2022, makes compact 50 kW or larger “wind harvesting platforms” that it mounts on the edge of a building’s roof. The rooftop wind units, which have no external moving parts or blades, capture wind flowing up and over the building and convert it into onsite electricity. Its generator system is a rotor-stator system with a highly efficient 5 kW permanent magnet generator. (Specs are here.)

The noiseless technology leverages aerodynamics like airfoils on a race car to capture and amplify each building’s airflow to generate energy. Aeromine says its systems typically consist of 20-40 units installed on the edge of a building facing the predominant wind direction.

Each 1,000-pound unit can withstand winds of between 120 and 158 mph depending on specification.

Aeromine’s units can operate independently or be integrated with existing rooftop solar arrays. Onsite power generation eliminates grid supply disruptions.

Maynard Holt, founder & CEO of Veriten, said:

We believe that distributed power innovation will play a vital role in helping companies fulfill their need for reliable, reasonably priced electricity and desire for low-impact power. We’re excited to partner with Aeromine, as its ability to quickly and affordably help a wide variety of companies meet their energy needs with wind resources is unique among distributed energy solutions.

The bladeless wind turbines are designed to power apartment buildings, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, offices, hospitals, retail centers – basically any big box building with a flat, unobstructed roof.

The company says it has 400 qualified projects in its pipeline and expects to roll out commercially in Europe and North America in 2025. 

Read more: How renewables could beat natural gas in US generating capacity within 3 years – in numbers


If you live in an area that has frequent natural disaster events, and are interested in making your home more resilient to power outages, consider going solar and adding a battery storage system. To make sure you find a trusted, reliable solar installer near you that offers competitive pricing, check out EnergySage, a free service that makes it easy for you to go solar. They have hundreds of pre-vetted solar installers competing for your business, ensuring you get high quality solutions and save 20-30% compared to going it alone. Plus, it’s free to use and you won’t get sales calls until you select an installer and share your phone number with them.

Your personalized solar quotes are easy to compare online and you’ll get access to unbiased Energy Advisers to help you every step of the way. Get started here. –ad*

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Ford likely to enable all dealers to sell EVs amid shifting plans

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Ford likely to enable all dealers to sell EVs amid shifting plans

With changes expected to Ford’s electric vehicle certification program, all Ford dealers will likely be able to sell EVs. Ford is reportedly preparing to open the program amid feedback from its dealers.

Ford poised to open dealers network to sell EVs

After asking dealers to pause EV investments this week, Ford is finalizing changes to the program. Ford already eased requirements last year due to “changes in the market.”

Ford spokesperson Marty Gunsberg confirmed that several dealers opted out of the program this past December. Gunsberg said, “Enrollments for 2024 are just over 50% of the network.” That’s down from about two-thirds confirmed by CEO Jim Farley a year prior.

According to Automotive News, after a series of meetings between dealers and executives, Ford is now preparing to allow all dealers to sell EVs.

Ford is expected to update the financial requirements needed to qualify. Previously, dealers were required to invest at least $500,000 to enroll in the program. For $1.2 million, dealers could be eligible for the “Elite” tier, which included additional chargers, demo units, and a presence on Ford.com.

Ford-dealers-EVs
Ford Mustang Mach E at a Tesla Supercharger (Source: Ford)

If dealers didn’t want to invest, they couldn’t sell Ford EVs. Ford’s vice president of EV programs, Lisa Drake, said the company no longer believes having select dealers sell EVs is the right plan.

More dealers want in but with less financial commitment

“What we’re finding is more dealers want to be involved in it and we don’t want to be exclusive to just a handful,” Drake said. “And so we’re making a change where we’re opening up that and not requiring as many certifications or investments for a dealer to participate in the EV revolution.”

Meanwhile, the changes will not be finalized until early June, when Ford meets with its dealer council.

Ford-dealers-EVs
2024 Ford F-150 Lightning lineup (Source: Ford)

It’s unclear how much Ford will reduce financial requirements to sell EVs, but many believe it will be drastically relaxed to promote participation.

Drake said Ford will be “more ubiquitous with our training and make sure essentially all of our dealers are equipped to sell them” going forward. Ford will need to figure out how to deal with those who have already made investments at the upcoming dealer council meeting.

Ford-dealers-EVs
Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Bronze edition (Source: Ford)

Ford slashed prices on its popular Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning in recent months to boost sales.

After cutting Mach-E prices by up to $8,100 earlier this year, Ford introduced a new 0% APR offer on 2024 models this week.

2024 Mustang Mach-E trim Range Starting Price
Mustang Mach-E Select 250 mi $39,995
Mustang Mach-E Premium 320 mi $43,995
Mustang Mach-E GT 280 mi $53,995
Mustang Mach-E Rally 265 mi $59,995
2024 Mustang Mach-E price and range by trim

Ford also introduced new discounts on the 2023 F-150 Lightning this week, offering up to $15,000 off MSRP. F-150 Lightning lease prices were cut by over $400 a month.

If you’re in the market for a new EV, now’s the time to start shopping. You can use our links below to find deals on Ford’s electric vehicles at a dealer near you.

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