zero-emission bus

From left, Wendy Fong, Western Regional Office; Gary Miskell, VTA and I-CPIE advisory board; Alberto Lamadrid, professor; John Westerman, Schneider Electric; and Shalinee Kishore, professor in front of a Valley Transportation Authority zero-emission bus.

Lehigh, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Work Toward Microgrid for Charging Zero-Emission Vehicles

Lehigh collaborates with Silicon Valley transit authority on microgrid to power electric buses.

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Amy White

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In a West Coast partnership, Lehigh is contributing research and community outreach to a California state-funded project to install a microgrid for charging zero-emission vehicles in Silicon Valley.

The project, on a list to be funded with a $4.68 million grant by the California Energy Commission, will provide a state-of-the-art charging infrastructure for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to fuel the agency’s fleet of battery-electric transit buses. The project works toward the agency’s goal of achieving 100% zero-emission fleets by 2036 (the California Air Resources Board requires public transit agencies to transition to 100% zero-emission fleets by 2040).

Lehigh students and faculty will engage local and disadvantaged communities on the benefits of transit electrification and infrastructure, and evaluate and identify approaches to make the charging infrastructure resilient in the face of outages, fire hazards and other disruptions, with support from Lehigh’s Institute for Cyber Physical Infrastructure and Energy (I-CPIE) and Western Regional Office, which arranged the partnership.

“VTA’s work to reduce stress on the state’s electric grid while converting to a zero-emission bus fleet will benefit transit agencies across the state,” said Gary Miskell, VTA’s chief innovation officer, who guided the effort, which includes energy and electric vehicle partners Scale Microgrid Solutions, Schneider Electric and Proterra.

The project grows from work Lehigh has been doing in the “smart grid” area for nearly a decade.

“This connection that was made (and so well maintained) by the Western Regional Office was key in translating our own more theoretical work to something concrete in the real world,” said Shalinee Kishore, Iacocca chair and professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate director of the Institute for Cyber Physical Infrastructure and Energy.

VTA's work to reduce stress on the state's electric grid while converting to a zero-emission bus fleet will benefit transit agencies across the state.

Gary Miskell, VTA's chief innovation officer

Lehigh involvement has included faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students, some who have participated through courses, projects and extracurricular research experiences.

As part of the upcoming project, students will develop optimization models for VTA charging decisions and work with VTA and local EMS and fire departments to evaluate emergency management plans. As a subcontractor for the VTA, Lehigh’s budget including cost share is about $175,000.

Lehigh’s Western Regional Office was created to extend educational opportunities for Lehigh students and faculty by building partnerships with enterprises and organizations in the metropolitan areas of the West. 

“The collaboration with the VTA funded by the California Energy Commission we hope is the first of many projects where Lehigh faculty directly partner with western organizations to provide new opportunities to work on relevant problems and provide new venues for our students to gain meaningful experience working on significant challenges,” John Welty, vice provost of the Western Regional Office, said.

Welty believes this project is the first time Lehigh faculty have received funded support from a California state agency, opening a new source of funding for faculty research support.

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Amy White

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