Companies are continuing to evolve to meet industry demands and needs, as reflected by three new school buses on display at the recent National Association of Pupil Transportation Trade Show.
For instance, GreenPower Motor Company showcased its new Mega BEAST all-electric, Type-D school bus, which claims to double the range currently available but with the same functionality as the original BEAST. The Mega BEAST is a 40-foot, purpose-built, zero-emission school bus that delivers a range of up to 300 miles on a single charge via a 387-kWh battery pack.
A press release issued by the company on Oct. 31 states that it provides the longest range and has the biggest battery pack in the school bus market. “The Mega BEAST can seat up to 90 passengers with standard features that include air ride suspension, ABS disk brakes and largest pass-through storage available,” the press release continues.
School Transportation News spoke with Michael Perez, vice president of school bus, contracts and grants for GreenPower, on the trade show floor. He explained the purpose-built chassis that the Mega BEAST is built on.
“All the panels are Constellium aluminum panels, which is highly rated aluminum that’s used in not only vehicles but aerospace, the very top of the line aluminum paneling,” he explained, adding that the chassis extends to the flanks of the vehicle.
This allows GreenPower to place its battery packs along the sides of the vehicle, as opposed to the middle of the vehicle in between chassis frame.
The Mega BEAST, Perez added, is the same weight as the original but with double the battery and the range. Six battery packs on the BEAST offer 193.5 kWh, but the MEGA Beast has 12 battery packs of up to 387 KWh.
“What that is big for is there’s a lot of customers that have what you would call range anxiety,” he explained. “Range anxiety is probably one of the biggest concerns and I would say one of the biggest areas right now. This doesn’t only squash that it but it helps [districts] be more flexible in what they need to do. You no longer have to plan your routes as difficult as it can be [around] a limited range.”
He added that even if a district isn’t running 200- or 300-mile trips, the Mega BEAST allows for more flexibility with charging. He added that the larger battery size of the Mega BEAST makes it desirable for vehicle-to-grid applications.
Another big difference with the BEAST models, he said, is the all-electric rooftop air conditioning instead of standalone units. Perez added that the vehicle lies above the wheel wells and offers a full flat floor, with track seating. Perez added that the Mega BEAST is currently entering production right now, and the first units are expected to be out by in early 2024.
Meanwhile, Optimal-EV, a manufacturer of low-floor paratransit shuttle buses and a GM and Ford chassis converter, provided the electric chassis for two Type A school buses at NAPT. The new all-electric SST-E Trans Tech Type A school bus is powered by Optimal EV. Jeff Hiatt, executive vice president of Optimal-EV, noted that the new all-electric The Trans Tech SST-E has a range of 125 to 230 miles on a single charge via a 133 kWh battery.
“Demand for our SST has never been stronger, so it made perfect sense to partner with an industry leader like Optimal-EV to develop a zero-emission electric version,” said Trans Tech President John Phraner via a press release. “As we look ahead to future production, we’ll continue to work with our customers across the country to ensure we are meeting the needs of their drivers, fleet managers and passengers.”
Additionally, Thomas Built Buses showcased its new Minotour school bus with an Optimal-EV electric drive available on both the GM 4500 and Ford E450 platforms.
“Through this partnership, we will be able to provide Thomas Built dealers and school operators with the safest and most innovative solution on the market for Type A conversion,” Hiatt, executive vice president at Optimal EV stated via a press release. “We are proud to be the first and only battery-electric converter for the Thomas Built Minotour Type A bus.”