Clean Transport

Published on August 24th, 2014 | by Cynthia Shahan


All-Electric School Bus Approved In One Day In California

August 24th, 2014 by  

This fall, some of California’s children will ride to school in electric style. The California Highway Patrol has approved the use of the an entirely electric school bus. This all-electric Blue Bird school bus was developed through a partnership between the Gilroy Unified School District and Adomani, and the result is a solar-fueled, 50-passenger, type-D, electric school bus.


Image Credit: Adomani

Verbal approval for the bus came only one day after first inspection. Domestic Fuel shares that Adomani board member and school bus industry expert Jim Reynolds said: “That is by far the fastest I have seen approval come in. I was anticipating a few months of processing.” The converted school bus will premiere this fall.

The transformational process started when Gilroy Unified School District provided Adomani with a 2007 Blue Bird All American diesel school bus. Thanks to ADOMANI’s patented electric conversion kit, ADOMANI returned this plug-in electric to the school district equipped to meet the district’s 22-mile route. With a range of 40 miles in between charge, Adomani can provide a school or commercial bus with sufficient battery power to travel 100 miles.

This positive experience with Adomani’s second converted Blue Bird school bus inspired a move. Domestic Fuel’s article explains Adomani’s move: “After the conversion for Gilroy, moving to California seemed like the right fit, though we plan to retrofit vehicles throughout the country,” said Edward Monfort, the founder and CTO of Adomani. “I am thrilled to be working with school buses and to have an opportunity to enter a market that can improve lives and the environment.”

The buses are completed in only a few weeks. Ninety percent of the OEM parts are retained; thus, mechanics are familiar: the transmission, compressor, radiator, alternator, etc. Check out videos from Adomani of its all-electric school bus or other vehicles.

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New All-Electric School Bus Saves California District $10,000+ Per Year

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Electric Buses Overall Best For CO2, Health & Price; Hydrogen Worst

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

is a Mother, an Organic Farmer, Licensed Acupuncturist, Anthropology Studies, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

  • Waldir Rogerio Sachs

    WHO knows here by the chance what exactly is going to happens with all of the old school buses?

    • Bob_Wallace

      No one knows exactly.

      • Waldir Rogerio Sachs

        I’m going to Lobby for our NFP (not for profit) to ship them to poor countries schools instead of dismantling them.

        2015-01-09 22:15 GMT-02:00 Disqus :

        • Bob_Wallace

          Historically, a lot of older school buses are sold off to Mexico and Central American countries where they get used for local public transportation. I’ve ridden thousands of miles on them.

          Lots of less developed countries don’t use school buses. Students generally walk to school. Some ride regular public transportation at student rates. And there are some creative solutions which involve much smaller vehicles than full size buses

          • Waldir Rogerio Sachs

            Right on Bob ! could you provide us with some references of such business to Central America?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry, no. I don’t know who deals with used school buses.

            You could probably find out on line or making some phone calls to surrounding school transportation offices.

          • Waldir Rogerio Sachs

            Yes dear, thanx that’s what i’m doing right now.

            2015-01-10 13:54 GMT-02:00 Disqus :

  • Bob_Wallace

    I’m not sure what point you are trying to make.

    Tesla had to purchase the Lotus bodies for their Roadster.

    This article is talking about taking the thousands of existing school buses and doing a conversion to electric.

    It isn’t talking about building new buses.

  • t1oracle

    It would be better if the bus was designed to be electric from the ground up. They could make it lower to ground, more aerodynamic, and dramatically improve handling by placing batteries in the floor like Tesla to lower the center of gravity. There would be no need for an engine bay up front.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Sure, but if this works out it’s a great way to make the transition to electric buses quickly. No need for the old bus to wear completely out before switching away from fuel.

      Aerodynamics are not that important for school and city buses The generally don’t drive at higher speeds.

      • t1oracle

        Tesla’s experience converting a gas powered Lotus Elise to an electric Tesla Roadster shows that using an existing chassis can actually make for more work. Although I do understand that a bus chassis should have a lot more room to work with, they will still get in the way of battery placement. For one, the drive shaft isn’t needed anymore. That area should just be all battery. Every pound of metal you can shave off will help extend range.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Sure. Pull out the engine and drive shaft.

          If the batteries are too large for the engine compartment then build a battery pack that fits underneath the bus as Tesla does with their S.

          Replace the rear differential with an electric motor. Or, better, two so that the wheels can turn independently. Make it four motors for areas with snow.

  • Adam Devereaux

    I think the likely reason for the quick approval is the very fact that it is only a conversion. Existing body regulatory approvals would still apply- this is not much different from buying an existing bus in either gas, diesel or LNG. The only hiccup I would see if battery placement and safety.

    My understanding is the average bus route is about 32 miles round trip. If these could charge between morning and afternoon then obviously a big win.

    I wonder if a bus roof of solar panels would provide enough power for AC? You could put a 3 kW array on the average roof. Sounds like a conservative estimate on a air source heat pump would be about 25k/btu for 2.5kw.

  • Vensonata

    Usually these buses have zero insulation. The old attitude was to save money and just put a metal shell on wheels, then heat the hell out of it with cheap diesel. In this day and age even a modest amount of insulation resolves a lot of issues around heating and cooling. One can also use an ice battery for cooling…that is the cheapest miracle battery of all. Unfortunately it doesn’t store electricity only “coolth”.

  • Marion Meads

    So glad that they have solar panels installed on the buildings or parking lots over the school grounds, it prevents the electric utility companies from fleecing their funds dry. Next step would be installing battery storage system for emergencies such as prolonged rains during the winter time.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Very interesting. I’ll have to have a closer look at an old diesel bus engine when I get the chance. (It’s not difficult, they often just have grates over them at the back of the bus here.)

    • Offgridman

      A rear engine one could do things differently as mine is a front and I was going off from that assumption on the conversions.
      Due to ten or twelve rafting companies around here taking people down in the gorge for white water, or other sections of the river to kayak and tube it is pretty easy to pick up the old school busses that they have worn out. Since I arranged for towing and the motor and tranny were shot in mine, got it for 200$,about a quarter of the scrap value at that time.

  • Kevin McKinney

    OK, could somebody expand on this: ” With a range of 40 miles in between charge, Adomani can provide a school or commercial bus with sufficient battery power to travel 100 miles.”

    Makes no sense to me, so probably I’m missing or misunderstanding something. But it just sounds self-contradictory–even a scenario where the bus recharges between morning and afternoon runs of 40 miles comes up 20 miles short of 100.

    Or is this sentence trying to say that though the bus under discussion has a range of 40 miles, Adomani can do 100-mile-range conversions?

    • Michael B

      Yes, what you said at the end. ( I think! )

    • Bob_Wallace

      Badly written sentence was my take. My email exchanges with the CEO left me feeling that he could use some help communicating.

  • Ronald Brakels

    I expect old habits to die hard and for high end vehicles to be the first to have a motor in each wheel. Then I presume it will spread to other vehicles.

  • ivyespalier (Randy)

    It has a transmission? Interesting. I want to know how much the bus cost and if it has a fuel-based heater onboard. How does the bus provide heat in the winter?

    • Bob_Wallace

      I emailed the company. Let’s see if they get back with more info.

      Seems to me this could be a winner. Taking an existing bus that has a good body but is in need of engine work and converting it to electric – that sounds like a great model. Bus interiors are pretty simple, just reupholster the seats, paint, and put some new rubber matting on the floor.*

      Schools could end up saving a lot of money. And that is something they badly need, a way to divert more of their very limited funds to education.

      *Give them wi-fi and eliminate almost all behavior problems. Hard to dip someones pigtails in the inkwell when you’re concentrating on achieving level eleventy-two wizard powers.

      • Very good use of an older bus, giving it more life, and cutting down on capital expense for a new one as well as running costs for fuel.

        School buses are an ideal candidate for EV’s. Their routes are predictable with long periods of inactivity for recharging at low voltages, requiring small adjustments to the electric infrastructure.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Routes are predictable and generally short. We like to not leave our students on buses too long.

          There will be rural exceptions but for now there’s a lot of low hanging fruit for innovative people to pick.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Technically heating should not be a problem. While the electric motor will produce much less heat than a diesel one, it will still produce heat and my understanding is California has little of this strange white precipitate that falls from the sky which you call snow.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Remind me, when you’re broiling next winter/summer/whatever you call it, to send you a picture of me digging my solar panels out from under piles of strange white precipitate.

        Gilroy can get a bit chilly. It’s right on the Monterrey Bay. Common to wear a jacket in the summer except in the middle of the day when one gets close to the Pacific.

        • Ronald Brakels

          I was in Canberra once and there was strange white stuff on the ground. People said it was snow but I knew they were lying because I knew from TV that snow looks like small pieces of polystyrene and this stuff looked totally fake.

        • Loren McDonald

          Gilroy is actually +/- 18 miles from Monterey Bay.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Where I live 18 miles is “next door”. My nearest neighbor is about 3 miles away. ;o)

          • Loren McDonald

            My only point is that Gilroy is inland and gets very hot … the weather is quite different from the coast … It is not common to wear a jacket in Gilroy in the summer.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I suppose we could get into a discussion of how often one might want a jacket on a summer evening. I’ll just add that coming through from the blood-thinning heat of the Central Valley I’ve found it a bit chilly on the odd night.


        • Ronald Brakels

          And I guess I should mention that an electric bus will produce maybe 40% of the heat of a diesel bus. Running bus air conditioning should be more of a hassel than keeping warm. And air conditioning is important. They have to stop running the trams if it gets too hot in Adelaide to prevent people dying inside them. (But apparently having people die on the platforms is fine.) This is what happens when you let Germany install the air conditioners. We might be able to avoid the problem by painting them white, but that would cut down on advertising revenue. Better to cause a break down in public transport instead.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Thinking about it further, only a portion of the heat of an internal combustion vehicle is salvaged for heating the cabin and that comes from the radiator system. A lot of heat is simply blown out the exhaust. This means it is easy for an electric bus to give cabin heating comparable to a diesel bus. It also means that economies possible on electric bus radiators are probably not as great as what I would have thought before thinking it through. On the other hand, sticking an electric motor in each wheel hub would make radiating heat easy.

      • Bob_Wallace

        You win the special prize for best guess.

        I received an email reply from the company…

        “The diesel engine had tubing going to the radiator that heated up the radiator which used tubing to heat up the cabin of the bus. The electric motor gets hot just like the diesel engine gets hot so we have tubing that goes from the EMA (Electric Motor Assembly) to the OEM radiator which uses OEM tubing that heats up the cabin of the bus. I think I may need to file another patent for I figured this method was already and always used by all EV manufacturers.”

        Now your chore is to start looking around to see if you can find your prize….

        • Ronald Brakels

          Yay me! I choose… all the chocolate in the supermarket! Don’t worry, I’ll show them your comment first. I’m sure they’ll agree all their chocolate is a most suitable prize.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Zit city….

    • Jason Willhite

      I’m not a mechanic by any means, but if electric vehicles also start using a transmission, doesn’t that translate into mechanical energy loss? If it did, I would wonder how much energy loss occurs, as electric vehicles should probably strive be as efficient as possible.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Having gears allows for a smaler and lighter motor for the same performance in a truck or bus. It makes less of a difference for a passenger vehicle but having two gears still can still save energy. (And characteristics of electric motors are it only needs two gears, town and highway.) My guess is, and it’s only a guess, is that an electric town car is better off without gears for reasons of weight and cost, while something sportier or longer ranged that’s likely to spend more time on the highway could benefit.

      • ivyespalier (Randy)

        It doesn’t matter if it is a performance car meant for performance. No one driving a Porsche 911 complains about the lack of gas milage because they didn’t buy it to save gas. A simple “transmission” consisting of multiple gear ratios would give it the performance boost.

        Oops I thought you replied to a different comment on a different site about a different vehicle. But this could boost performance, requiring a smaller motor, and could even save energy at some speeds.

  • Vensonata

    Here we go. Back to school electric style…wheee! Its good also that kids grow up in electric vehicles so that their pre-historic parents can’t diss electric vehicles and get away with it.

    • Offgridman

      Glad to hear about this company and the ability to convert traditional buses to electric. One of the dreams for the future of the boys and I is to make our own RV motor home to go see the country in. With being able to charge off from standard network connections doing this in an EV seems even more feasible, and even easier to make all of the inner workings all electric to live in while charging at a motor park.
      On a side note was hoping to run across you today. With your off grid setup being a commercial venture to some extent do you have a webpage or link that I can check out to see more information on what you have done and how you make it all work? Have gotten curious from some of your comments, and if you are looking for more business will be happy to pass the information on to others.

      • Vensonata

        Not exactly a “business”. It is a monastery/ retreat center. I have a youtube clip about 45 minutes long which is called “Birken monastery energy movie”. There you will be taken through the building and energy structures by” yours truly ” Ajahn Sona. I am a monk, by the way. See “Ajahn Sona channel” on youtube. Also another Tedx presentation called “Green Monasticism” It is based on a Catholic Buddhist monastic conference in Kentucky, in 2008. You’d be amazed how green and efficient some of these nunneries and monasteries are…windturbines, solar, wood heat, land reclamation etc. etc. Basically monasteries might be the lowest carbon footprint communities in the Western world. (We have been out of style for about 500 years, but we’re back…and looking good!)

        • Offgridman

          Thank you for the information and since I now know it won’t offend, have a blessed day.
          As to the greening of monasteries it is no surprise to me. Back in the ’80’s a monastic retreat near me in upstate NY went offgrid due to the added expenses of the oil crisis. All heat and hot water coming from wood fired heaters and boilers, and electricity and lights from a fixed up wood gas generator that was originally from the WW2 era. Fuel and some funding supplied by running a clean up business that cleaned up wood lots after the timber companies got what they wanted.
          Also worked at a haute cuisine French restaurant years ago when I thought cooking was going to be my career. It was a bed and breakfast plus full service restaurant that was based in a shut down monastery that was first established in the early 1700’s. Extensive history with medical services for the native Americans, plus being a stop on the underground railroad back during the Civil War. Part of the tour was to go way down in the basement to the tunnel out to the shore that came out on a small cove on one of the finger lakes. It seemed that people were more interested in its use during prohibition than the prior use though.
          There is a lot of history of Catholic involvement in that part of the country back during the founding of the US that unfortunately most people are unaware of.
          Thanks for bringing back the memories and the information on what you are doing. Have a great day.

        • djr417

          I just watched your video tour- amazing how little electricity you use! I live in the lower mainland of BC, and use more than 15kwhrs during the winter months- and thats for 1k sq feet apartment with 1 occupant.

          • Vensonata

            Watch the videos on “Burnaby Harmony House” youtube A cutting edge efficency house in Vancouver. 20 short beautifully made videos on every aspect of super efficiency in Vancouver. PV, heat pumps, rain water catchment, electric car, solar hot water , super insulation, triple glaze windows etc. Probably in your neighborhood.

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