First Student and First Transit pursue electrification with NextEra

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First Student operates an increasing fleet of electric school buses. FIRST

FirstGroup subsidiaries First Student and First Transit have joined forces with renewable energy generator NextEra Energy Resources to improve air quality for communities throughout the US and Canada by targeting rapid growth of school and public transport battery, electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with associated charging, storage, renewable generation and grid connection infrastructure.

The companies have announced they have entered into a framework agreement and are working toward a joint venture to pursue the electrification of tens of thousands of school and public transportation vehicles across the US and Canada. First said that the transition to electric vehicles for the school and public transport sector is expected to play a critical role in helping communities improve air quality and environmental health for student passengers, transit riders and local residents. It added that utilising the sizeable batteries of school and public transportation electric vehicle fleets for distributed energy storage and grid services has the potential to make a significant contribution to long-term sustainable clean energy transition in North America.

The US and Canada combined represent the largest homogeneous student transportation market in the world, with approximately 520,000 yellow school buses in total. This market has remained consistent in size over time, with a number of favourable factors driving fleet conversion to electric vehicles: an increasing demand for clean, pollution-free school buses from schools, communities, parents, and student passengers; the strategic location of school bus depots for installation of necessary charging, storage and grid connection infrastructure; and low rates of utilisation and predictable daily school bus schedules.

The companies will first focus on First Student’s fleet of 43,000 yellow school buses based at nearly 500 depots located across 40 US states and seven Canadian provinces before addressing First Transit’s base of more than 300 customers to create new business opportunities and revenue streams associated with fleet electrification.

Matthew Gregory, Chief Executive of FirstGroup plc, commented: “First Student and First Transit are taking this significant step in order to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions for the communities we serve. We have found a world-class partner in NextEra, who shares our vision of the importance that electrification and zero-emission technologies will play in the future of sustainable transport. The agreement announced today will position First Student as the leading owner and operator of electric school buses, and First Transit as the leading provider of sustainable passenger transportation solutions, in North America.”

John Ketchum, President and CEO of NextEra Energy Resources added: “The growing shift away from internal combustion engines is expected to drive over one fifth of US energy demand by 2050. Working with First Student and First Transit will enable future investments in electrification upgrades and charging stations, as well as energy management services. As demonstrated by our recent acquisition of EIQ, the software platform for quantifying the value and timing of fleet conversions, this collaboration is consistent with our strategy as we continue to explore potential opportunities for electric and hydrogen transformation of the transportation sector.”