Navistar President and CEO Mathias Carlbaum recently addressed members of the media on the company’s expected growth and projection of Navistar, which the Traton Group acquired over the summer.
Carlbaum joined Navistar in September from Swedish truck and bus manufacturer Scania Group, after parent company the Traton Group completed its acquisition over the summer. He noted during the Feb. 4 event that operations should start to “normalize” this year, and he also identified trends in terms of emissions and technology advancements.
He said that the Navistar merger into Traton Group, a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group formally known as the Volkswagen Truck & Bus, is expected to result in a good combination of what’s to come in terms of green emissions, not only in three to five years but in looking at 10 to 15 years down the line. He explained that the future of technology is coming fast, noting that autonomous vehicles and green technology will be leading the change.
Carlbaum explained that Traton is committed to reducing global carbon dioxide levels. The future for the company, he said, is to work for future generations, which drives the shift toward clean technology and data. This, he added, will drive the total cost of ownership to the consumer tipping point. For the school transportation industry, the electric vehicle tipping point was the federal infrastructure bill signed into law last fall.
All the decisions being taken today at Navistar, Carlbaum said, are to pave the company’s future of manufacturing only zero-emissions vehicles including school bus models by 2040.
While he explained that the supply chain remains unstable, it’s a work in progress and he said he expects improvements toward the later part of the year.
School Buses in Particular
Because of the use cases for school buses, the vehicles have been referred to as the tip of the spear in terms of electrification, which is especially bolstered by the passage of the $2.5 billion federal funds over five years to electrify school buses. Carlbaum discussed the anticipated impact of that legislation on the school bus market.
He noted that this movement will serve as a propeller for the widescale electrification of commercial vehicles in America, noting that the school bus segment couldn’t be a better starting point for electric vehicles. Because school buses drive through communities and working areas, he noted it hits on a lot of aspects in which electrification is an early solution in improving air quality.
He also said that Navistar, the parent company of IC Bus, is seeing an uptick in customers requesting electric vehicles and expects that trend to continue upward into the later part of 2023. He explained that the IC electric bus is already up and running in the U.S. and Canada, adding that electric school buses are a learning journey.
He noted that school district leaders are starting to understand how to go into the segment while also considering which routes most favor an electric bus. He added that while the infrastructure bill handles a lot of the financial stress of purchasing an electric school bus, school district customers are still working through concerns of electric vehicle chagrining and infrastructure, which IC Bus assists with.
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He said Navistar anticipates seeing purchases from the infrastructure bill hit the market next year.
“There are applications and routes that are viable already, not only school buses but on [motor vehicles], so what we’ve learned is the most forward linear operators are really starting on a small scale to get acquainted with the technology,” he explained.
He noted that over time, the initial purchase price of the vehicle will drop as more electric school buses are purchased and hit the roads.
Despite the company being focused on electrifying fleets, propane also remains a vital part of the company’s mission. “In the near-term, propane-fueled vehicles continue to have a place in the IC Bus product portfolio,” commented Trish Reed, vice president and general manager of IC Bus, during a follow-up conversation. “As the transportation industry moves toward a zero-emission future, vehicle electrification will be the primary drive for reaching these goals.
“Our message is electric is the right thing to do, but as importantly, we must do it the right way. We remain focused on delivering products that serve our customer’s needs while ensuring we meet government regulations and efficiency improvements to serve our industry for the road ahead.”
Editor’s Note: Carlbaum is scheduled to deliver a keynote presentation at the ACT EXPO in Long Beach, California. The conference is set for May 9-12. School Transportation News is a media partner of event producer Gladstein, Neandross & Associates.