Fleet Electrification Project:

Hazelwood School District

Zero-Emission School Bus Fleet Transition Planning and Simulation

Client: Hazelwood School District, EPRI, and Ameren
Location: Saint Louis, MS

In an effort to eliminate harmful emissions from diesel school buses, that are detrimental to the environment as well as to the health of kids commuting on these buses, there is an urgent effort to transition from fossil-fuel vehicles to zero-emission electric vehicles. Pollution inside diesel school buses could be as much as 10 times ambient levels. Exposure to higher levels of air pollution is associated with reduced lung development in children. Microgrid Labs conducted a detailed feasibility study and system design for Hazelwood School District St. Louis, Missouri, for their 120 diesel buses in its fleet.  

The Hazelwood School District (Hazelwood), is exploring the possibility of transitioning its school bus fleet from diesel buses to an all-electric zero-emission fleet. Ameren, as the local utility and electricity provider to Hazelwood, wanted to understand the potential impact on its distribution network and explore how it could provide financial support towards infrastructure cost in order to support faster transition towards zero-emission fleets. The feasibility study conducted by Microgrid Labs (MGL) in partnership with Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) provided details about a possible transition to an electrified fleet to Hazelwood and Ameren. 

Innovative approach to decision making 

The traditional approach used by fleet decision makers for a new technology, like electric vehicles, is to buy a few electric buses and operate them on their routes. A pilot project of two buses could easily cost upwards of a million dollars and take 18-24 months. MGL, using its EVOPT-Planning software combined with telematic devices installed on the buses, provided a detailed, simulation-based analysis of a futuristic, all-electric fleet operations scenario at this location. Results provided the data needed by the school district and the utility to make evidence-based decisions at fraction of the cost, as compared to the traditional approach, and on a timeframe that is few months rather than years. 

The feasibility study included evaluating and collecting data points for the current fleet, route lengths, elevation changes, maintenance data, fuel costs, electricity costs, and infrastructure to provide asset sizing (batteries, motors, chargers, infrastructure upgrades, potential alternative energy sources, etc.) recommendations for a transition plan with an estimated return on investment date.  

Another key aspect of the study was detailed analysis for grid integration of the charging infrastructure, electrical infrastructure upgrade and also integration of a solar PV + battery storage microgrid at the facility. We created a digital twin of the facility that helped the utility in simulating the accuracy and understanding the detail of the feasibility study in order to understand the impact of the fleet electrification at this site and use the same approach to evaluate and support other fleet electrification projects in their territory. This also allowed the utility to evaluate the possibility of installing PV and battery storage at this facility and look into the option of vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-building options in order to build resiliency for the fleet and also potentially build resiliency hubs for the community to be used during natural disasters. 

The intent of this pilot is to provide technology services and support to potentially lower cost methods of providing fleet electric vehicle feasibility studies and system design. The main interest of this research is to determine the efficiencies gained and the challenges associated with the use of Microgrid Labs’ technology, EVOPT, in a real-world setting.