School bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corporation is partnering with Colorado-based Lightning eMotors to offer an industry-first, factory-approved option to convert existing gasoline- and propane-powered school buses to run on battery electricity.
The companies announced the partnership on Tuesday. Blue Bird identified repowering a bus to run on electric power as a bridge strategy to larger scale electrification of fleets, according to a statement.
Other electric repowers currently available to student transporters are aftermarket options that using an existing diesel bus. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not allow repowered buses to be purchased with Clean School Bus Program rebate funds. Applications for this year’s rebate can be submitted through Aug. 16.
But a Blue Bird spokesman told School Transportation News this week that “significant” cost savings are anticipated because the school bus chassis and body are repurposed. He added that added the company has yet to determine pricing.
“It’s a more cost-effective approach over the life of the vehicle,” said Stephen Koller, a senior corporate communications advisor to Blue Bird.
He relayed that starting next year, Lightning eMotors technicians at company conversion centers across the U.S. and Canada will remove and replace the internal combustion engine, exhaust system and fuel tank with an electric powertrain system that includes batteries and wire harnesses. Lightning eMotors has over 300 electric vehicles already on the road with over 2 million miles driven.
Type C Vision school bus models manufactured after September of this year will be eligible for the repower work. The conversion process will be performed to the same OEM safety and quality standards as a new Blue Bird bus. Koller said the company anticipates customers will want to turn in their existing gasoline and propane school buses to be repowered to electric rather than to purchase a new gasoline or propane bus and then have it converted.
Also, according to the press release, the electric repower system installed by Lightning eMotors will support battery configurations of 100kWh to 225kWh. The projected vehicle range is up to 150 miles on a single charge depending on the battery configuration.
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