Collins Bus and Ford Pro announced a zero-emission Ford E-Transit Type A school bus is now available to order.
E-Transit is the first Type A school bus on an electric powertrain from a full-line automaker. It features a fully electric powertrain with a 68kwh high-voltage battery and an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty. The bus is offered on Ford’s E-Transit T-350 low-roof extended 178-inch, single-rear-wheel cutaway and is available with floor plans accommodating up to 12 seated passengers or eight bench-seat passengers and two passengers in wheelchairs.
Christian Kreipke, Ford Pro’s brand manager, spoke to School Transportation News last week at ACT Expo in Anaheim, California, about the launch.
“What they get from us, is the cab and the rails, and that vehicle is what we call an incomplete. It means you’ve got to put something on there to finish it off,” Kreipke explained. “And with that, you get all the things that Ford allows you. And then the nice thing, too, is that Collins isn’t doing anything that would interfere with our warranty. So, in other words, they don’t do anything to alter the battery. They don’t drill into it, where you would have problems or where you might have safety issues … and this is the advantage that Ford Pro has collaborating with our upfitters. We work with them so that the engineering specs are compatible.”
He added that the E-Transit is delivered directly to the body providers, so no middlemen need to be involved in the process. “We wanted something that you felt you as the upfitter, feel comfortable taking our vehicle and doing the least amount of modifications that you need to outside of what goes on those rails,” Kreipke added.
Kreikpe said the next steps are to continue to develop additional Ford Pro upfitters.
“We do rely on our upfitters, and while we really appreciate everything Collins has done, there are a lot of upfitters out there,” he added. “The volume and demand are going to skyrocket, such that a lot of our upfitters just cannot keep up. So, by having a diverse array of people, when you the client come to us, we can get you in contact with multiple to make sure you can actually get your vehicle.”
When looking at the future technology and how batteries affect the total cost of ownership, Kreikpe said EVs would get affordable when parts are manufactured in larger quantities. “It’s going to take us a while to get there,” he said, adding that infrastructure is another big piece of the puzzle. “…When you get into larger fleets to the commercial space, like school bus, I don’t want a school to get 50 buses and not have a charger. Number one, it doesn’t serve me, and at the end of the day, they’re going to not like my product. But more so, it’s not going to serve any of us if we got a whole bunch of these things just sitting there.”
To help with the infrastructure, Ford Pro also offers an electric charger for districts to purchase as well as a propriety charge management solution. “We also encourage that before you buy any EV, we always talk about the charging,” he told STN Publisher and President Tony Corpin during a video interview from the ACT Expo exhibition hall. “At Ford Pro, we like to think of as one-stop shopping, so we have all the chargers you would need to be able to run one, five or 100 of these vehicles. And what we would do at Ford Pro, is work with you to establish what is your need now and what is your need down the road, especially as we get closer to those mandates, and how can we manage that all.”
He added that the company is helping by providing these options to customers.
“I think people forget that these chargers in many ways are tailored to the vehicle,” he explained. “… I don’t want you to go out and get something that requires, you know, 500 kW of power when the vehicle is only 108 [kW capable]. It doesn’t do us any good. It’s a drain on the system and the infrastructure. I want you to be able to have what you need at the time you need it.”
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In terms of battery technology, Kreikpe said the range needs to improve. He added the Collins Bus partnership is a great first step, but there’s always going to be a need for something more.
“The E Transit right now for the low roof is 126 miles,” he said, adding that range provides a good use case for a lot of fleets. “If you’re in a more rural area, you might have to go further than that.”
He noted that at the end of the day, the end goal is longer range for less cost.