Lehigh's I-CPIE and Western Regional Office collaborating with Silicon Valley transit authority on microgrid to power electric buses

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.

Collaborators in front of Valley Transportation Authority 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.

“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,” says 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,” says Shalinee Kishore, Iacocca chair and professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate director of Lehigh's Institute for Cyber Physical Infrastructure and Energy (I-CPIE).

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.

Read the full story in the Lehigh University News Center.

Story by Amy White

Shalinee Kishore

Shalinee Kishore is Iacocca Chair Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Associate Director for Lehigh's Institute for Cyber Physical Infrastructure and Energy (I-CPIE).