LONG BEACH – TransPower’s chief executive officer shared details at the Advanced Clean Transportation EXPO of its partnership with Blue Bird to bring a new all-electric, zero-emissions school bus to market, one of several already on the road or soon to be made available.
Michael Simon, president and CEO of TransPower USA, made the comments during a roundtable discussion on Thursday at the Long Beach Convention Center as ACT EXPO wrapped up for the year. School Transportation News is a media sponsor of the annual event.
Earlier this year, TransPower and Blue Bird announced their alliance following the school bus manufacturer winning a $4.4 million vehicle-to-grid grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop the technology. Simon explained at the ACT EXPO that 16 electric school buses will be initially built at Blue Bird’s Fort Valley, Georgia plant. Simon added that the buses will be assembled entirely by Blue Bird, with TransPower shipping all components to the facility.
The two companies have also been partnering on a complete refurbish of model-year 1996 Blue Bird buses on International chassis that upgrade the vehicles to full electric powertrains. Two of the buses have been in route use for the past year at Torrance Unified School District in Southern California. Simon told STN that two electric buses are also headed to both Napa Valley Unified School District north of San Francisco and Edison Unified School District near Fresno, California.
TransPower, which also builds electric transit buses, tractors and a range of construction and mining vehicles, converted a 2008 Thomas Built HDX school bus conventional diesel to plug-in battery-electric power for testing by Escondido Unified School District and El Cajon Unified School District near San Diego during the 2014-2014 school year.
TransPower later reported that the bus logged more than 1,600 miles during eight weeks of passenger service, regularly operating for 30-40 miles each day. It utilized approximately 60- to 80 percent of its rated battery capacity each day with an operating efficiency of about 2 kWh per mile, which TransPower said equated to approximately 17 miles per gallon. The equivalent fuel cost for the prototype bus was estimated at $0.22 per mile (based on $0.11 per kWh), compared to $0.66 per mile for the comparable diesel bus (at $4 per gallon diesel and 6 MPG).
That bus cost approximately $280,000, more than twice the cost of a conventional diesel. At the time TransPower engineers said the price would eventually come down as battery technology matured, which the ACT EXPO panel confirmed is now becoming the case. Earlier this year, representatives of Cummins and Power Solutions International made similar comments to the school bus industry, both agreeing that electric school buses will begin to make more fiscal and operational sense for school districts 10 years from now.
Also at ACT EXPO, ADOMANI representatives said a new zero-emissions school bus with a moncoque body will soon hit the market, and Creative Bus Sales displayed its new all-electric school bus manufactured with partner Starcraft Bus. Meanwhile, three school districts in Sacramento, California are unveiling their new electric school buses this coming week, the eLion by Lion Bus and the TransTech Bus/Motiv Type A.