October 14th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
We’ve written about Blue Bird electric school buses a few times, but adoption has not been as quick as an electric enthusiast might have hoped. Air pollution from diesel-fueled buses harms children across the United States every day. Air pollution from diesel fumes has been documented to cause a variety of both severe and mild health problems, including deadly cancers and asthma. Blue Bird has offered a solution — an electric school bus — since 2018. Every school district in the country should be buying this bus or another electric school bus offering.
While we don’t yet have the chance to celebrate thousands of electric school buses across the USA, Blue Bird (NASDAQ:BLBD) has announced this month that it has sold hundreds of electric buses, and there’s been “a surge in demand for their 100% electric school buses.”
Californians have long been the largest population of CleanTechnica readers. They’ve long accounted for about half of electric vehicle purchases in the United States, and they’ve long been responsible for the largest portion of solar panel installations in the country. So, it should come as no surprise to read that “a majority of these buses have been sold in California.” However, it has also sold electric buses in various locations outside of California, including all the way up in North Dakota as well as in the Deep South.
“With districts able to obtain grant and other financial assistance, locations that we have deployed electric school buses in were the first in their state to have an EV bus in their fleet,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. “As districts continue to see the environmental benefits of low- and zero-emissions solutions, such as electric, it is inevitable for our industry to see this shift.”
The company notes that top questions or concerns on first introduction to the idea concern whether or not the electric buses can perform well in the cold and how to charge them.
“The usual concern with deciding to introduce electric in a new area is the climate – will it work in cold weather?” said chief commercial officer for Blue Bird, Mark Terry. “We have deployed buses in over 25% of all states in the U.S., including cold climates such as North Dakota and New York, as well as hot areas such as Texas and Georgia. Charging is a key part of the equation that districts should really look into, and we have an incredible dealership network that helps districts navigate infrastructure setup to ensure effective charging and operation.”
Battery technology has evolved to the point that electric school buses have plenty of range for their fixed daily routes. A modern electric school bus can go well over 100 miles on a full charge (its buses can go 120 miles, according to Blue Bird), which is enough for many buses to make their rounds and get back to the depot to charge again till the next day. And if a bus is very heavily utilized and could use a faster charge during the day, Blue Bird electric buses have CCS1 fast charging capability, which can add a full charge in 3 hours.
Something else notable about Blue Bird is that it’s the only bus manufacturer that offers electric versions of every class of school bus.
“As the only manufacturer currently producing every bus type in Electric, we can help districts start to introduce and potentially transform their entire fleet over time to zero emissions,” Horlock noted.
Also of note is the fact that these buses are set up for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) action. If the local setup is adequate for it, the electric buses can act as power backup in the case of grid outages. Also, if the utility allows it, they could send electricity back into the grid for financial compensation.
In addition to Blue Bird, electric leaders Lion, Motiv Power Systems, and Thomas Built Buses all now offer electric school buses. We covered Lion’s foray into the electric school bus world all the way back in 2016, and Motiv rolled out the country’s first electric school bus back in 2013. The technology has improved enormously since then, with options on the market now being more than cost-competitive on a lifetime cost of ownership basis that considers fuel and maintenance costs — and even more so if you consider children’s and the broader public’s health.
Images courtesy Blue Bird.
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