Most experts agree that electric buses will eventually emerge as the leading solution for student transport (and many other vocations as well). Electric buses are simply cleaner, quieter, healthier for both students and community, better for the environment, more efficient, require less maintenance and are far more reliable than gas, diesel and propane alternatives.
Furthermore, ongoing operating costs are significantly less due to lower cost fueling costs and dramatic reductions in maintenance/repair costs. These compelling advantages beg the question of not if electrification will become the dominant propulsion method of school buses, but when it will.
The answer to that question may be closely tied to cost. Despite the significant advantages of electric buses, the upfront purchase price has emerged as the greatest obstacle to their adoption. Both legacy and emerging manufacturers have brought new electric bus options to market, and these efforts should be applauded.
However, new electric buses can cost 2x-3x (or even greater) compared to a traditional new diesel bus. Fleet operators often just can’t afford the upfront cost, even with grants and other subsidies. And while the trend is clear – electric vehicles continually get cheaper – the funding gap for now remains too great for many.
However, there is an alternative.
Existing on-road buses can be converted, or repowered, to electric for one-half to one-third the cost of a new vehicle.
Repowering a school bus with uniqueEV® is straightforward. Your existing on-road bus has its old dirty powertrain removed and replaced with new clean electric. The diesel engine, transmission, fuel tanks, mufflers, exhaust treatment systems and so on are removed and replaced with a high torque electric motor, batteries, and associated electronics.
The result is your existing bus is converted to full electric with all the operational benefits of a new vehicle. Buses are typically repowered in less time than it takes to take delivery of a new vehicle. And drivers are immediately comfortable in the vehicle and enjoy the improved driving experience including increased power.
Logan Bus Company, the largest contractor for the New York City Department of Education, is an example of a company that has decided to repower existing diesel buses as a core part of their electrification strategy. Determined to be a leader in clean, efficient student transportation, Logan is deploying the first Type C electric school buses in New York City, which are repowered International buses.
“Leadership at the state city and local levels are pushing for clean electric buses, and Logan is proud to be the industry leader in this space. Repowering our existing buses to battery electric allows us to scale our fleet to EV faster, more affordably and in a larger capacity than buying new,” says Corey Muirhead, executive vice president for Logan Bus Company.
Converting diesel buses to electric is generally easy, but there is a structured process. That process begins with vehicle and route assessments to determine battery requirements to attain the needed range under real world operating conditions. Required charging equipment and charging times are determined. If the fleet has any other electric buses, efforts are made to leverage a common charging infrastructure.
Both repowered and new buses can easily coexist within the same fleet. They are complementary paths to achieving the benefits of an electrified fleet.
Funding incentives for electrification have been launched at both the state and local levels, and many of these programs are available for repowering existing buses.
As example, the New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program (NYTVIP) gives vouchers to eligible fleets towards electric conversions. NYTVIP can cover up to 80% of the conversion cost. In addition to other state programs the federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) allows eligible applicants to receive 60% of the cost of a repowered bus.
Finally, there is much pending legislation that promises to make available ample funding towards electric buses.
Repowered electric buses cost one-third to one-half the cost of a new bus, and when incentives are applied can be even less. Getting a repowered bus into service is simply cheaper, easier and quicker than buying new. New buses and repowered buses can coexist in the same fleet, complementing each other and sharing the same charging infrastructure.