First the Hoover Dam, then the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, and numerous power plants and other creations along the way. Now, add electric school bus charging to the expansive resume of global engineering firm Bechtel.
With a varied and accomplished history over its 125 years of existence, Bechtel said it is open for business as an electric school bus (ESB) infrastructure partner after announcing last week its new partnership with First Student. The companies plan to deploy 30,000 ESBs, nearly two-thirds of First Student’s fleet, by 2035.
“The Bechtel partnership brings a whole new level of support of EV infrastructure development and deployment to North America,” commented Alex Cook, the chief engineer for First Student. “The fact that they are so heavily integrated into worldwide utility infrastructure design and build brings a level of expertise to the yellow bus electrification that supplements and provides a short-term bridge to future utility expansions that will be taking place in the next several years.”
Cook added that Distributed Energy Resources — small-scale electricity supply or demand resources that are interconnected to the electric grid — are fast-emerging interim solutions to increasing demand on utilities, and school buses will be key to the supply and distribution of energy in the immediate future.
“Bechtel possess(es) that insight and expertise to integrate the emerging DER with utility expansion,” said Cook. “I believe we are experiencing history being made and rewritten from a perspective of power production, delivery, resilience, sustainability and availability much like the George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla DC versus AC battle.”
Bechtel is drawing upon its expertise of constructing 200,000 cellular sites and laying tens of thousands of kilometers of fiber to be a one-stop partner for First Student through design and build, said Justin Britt, Bechtel’s GM of semiconductors and EV business. The challenge, he continued, will be managing complex ESB deployments first regionally and then nationally, while remaining agile enough to juggle changing requirements and technology.
“[The] key to Bechtel’s approach includes early and frequent engagement with all stakeholders, including local utilities and permitting agencies, a global supplier base, and fully digital project execution,” Britt added. “Finally, we have unwavering commitment to safety and believe in the electric mobility revolution.”
In expanding its support to school districts and bus companies throughout the industry, Britt said Bechtel brings to the table realistic projection and proven execution in engineering, procurement, construction and project management.
“We want to be involved early in electric vehicle charging infrastructures projects,” Britt concluded. “As they grow, or the iterations become more frequent, or the chargers more geographically disperse, the key to scaling up is managing complexity with an eye to the future. Bechtel leverages our global supply chain when possible and partners with local contractors as appropriate to help with local expertise.”