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NREL Partners with California's Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority on Electric Bus Grid Integration Project

May 10, 2017

NREL is partnering with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in California on a new Advanced Transit Bus Vehicle Grid Integration (VGI) Project to develop and demonstrate VGI strategies and analytics to inform state-wide opportunities for transit agencies. The California Energy Commission is funding the $2 million project, which will span four years and includes a variety of partners.

VTA plans to add electric buses to its fleet along with an innovative bus charging system that aims to reduce charging costs, minimize the impact of bus charging on the grid, and integrate increased renewables, such as wind and solar, into the electricity mix. Based on an analysis of in-use operations data gathered via logging devices installed on the electric buses and comparable conventional buses, NREL will evaluate the performance of the electric buses and help VTA optimize their use. NREL will also contribute to a best-practices guide covering the project configuration, economic and energy outcomes, challenges and approaches, and policy considerations for electric bus deployment.

NREL will utilize several cutting-edge tools, developed in-house, for its performance evaluation and associated analytics, including:

  • Fleet DNA — the nation's largest publically accessible repository of high-fidelity commercial fleet vehicle operations data for optimizing vehicle designs or choosing advanced technologies for fleets
  • Future Automotive Systems Technology Simulator (FASTSim) — a high-level simulation tool for estimating the impact of technological improvements on vehicle fuel economy, performance, battery life, and cost
  • Drive Cycle Rapid Investigation, Visualization, and Evaluation (DRIVE) — an analysis tool that produces representative testable drive cycles at record speed, from vehicle data gathered via onboard logging devices.

"This development and demonstration of advanced VGI strategies and analytics will serve as a case study for other transit authorities throughout California, and even across the country," said Kevin Walkowicz, manager of the Transportation Systems Group in NREL's Transportation and Hydrogen Systems Center. "NREL will provide modeling and analytics on the potential scope of energy services associated with VGI, develop initial operating scenario models, and recommend strategies for both pilot deployment and fleet-wide growth."

"This work builds on NREL's considerable experience in evaluating the real-world performance of advanced fleet vehicles and integrating electric vehicles with the utility grid, including renewable-based vehicle charging systems," Walkowicz added. "Our findings help guide the direction of future research by pinpointing areas in need of further development."

With Prospect Silicon Valley at the helm, key project partners aside from VTA and NREL include Proterra, Kisensum, Cisco Systems, Energy Solutions, Clever Devices, CALSTART, and the NOVA Workforce Investment Board.

Learn more about NREL’s sustainable transportation research.