Zum, a provider of modern student transportation, said it has raised $140 million in a Series E funding round, with the company’s valuation rising to $1.3 billion, as part of a plan to use artificial intelligence and enhance other technologies to lower emissions from school buses.
The new funding will be used to accelerate Zum’s AI-driven technology platform, which is critical to the company’s goal to fully decarbonize the school bus industry. The company also aims to use its deployment of its fully EV school bus fleets to turn the batteries into virtual power plants through its advances in vehicle-to-grid technology.
Specifically, that means its technology platform has the ability to know when to discharge and recharge EV school buses. Buses that would otherwise be sitting idle in bus depots can send energy back to the grid during evenings and summers.
Related Content: Electric School Bus Fleet Delivered to Kentucky Schools
The Series E fundraise and Zum’s efforts come as school buses are the largest mass transit system in the United States. They have a significant carbon footprint, with 90% running on diesel fuel.
“Zum is on a mission to revolutionize student transportation, moving beyond the status quo towards a future where innovative technologies are used to advance sustainability efforts,” Ritu Narayan, founder and CEO of Zum, said in a statement. “Securing this latest round of funding, especially in a challenging economic climate, is a resounding vote of confidence in our vision and ability to execute. This investment marks a pivotal moment in our journey, empowering us to turn school buses into powerful tools for environmental change.”
Zum also offers a personalized end-to-end technology platform, helping schools increase efficiencies and reduce the costs of managing student transportation fleets. Transportation is typically the second biggest budget item for schools. The platform offers route optimization, with less time on the road and more capacity to transfer energy back to the grid.
The technology is also available to public school districts with their internal fleets.
In January 2024, Zum received more than $26 million through the EPA’s first Clean School Bus Program. The Series E round brings Zum’s total fundraise to $350 million. The round was led by global investment firm GIC, with participation from Sequoia and SoftBank Vision Fund 2.