CleanTechnica attended the ACT Expo in Long Beach and one of the big discoveries for us was the eLion — the electric school bus from Lion Bus. I sat down with Lion President Marc Bédard and John Clements — the “Electric Bus Evangelist” — to get the lowdown on the eLion.
Pick a Range, Any Range
The eLion is an all-electric school bus with customizable range depending on the route distance, charging availability, and desired price. The variable range is accomplished with a modular battery design that provides anywhere from 70 miles of range with 3 battery modules up to 100 miles of range with the maximum 5 battery modules.
With most school bus routes being very fixed and predictable, this allows schools and school districts to right-size the bus range (and price!) to fit the needs of the normal daily route.
Charging Made Easy
When the bus isn’t in use, it can be charged via the onboard 19.2 kW charger that tops up each 26 kWh battery module in 1.3 hours. For the 3-battery-module bus, that nets out to a 3.9-hour charge, and with the big-boy 5-battery-module bus, a 6.5-hour charge. This means bus operators can run routes in the morning, charge during the day, and be fully topped up for the afternoon run to get the kids home.
The Clean Bus Guru
One of the major advantages eLion has going for it is John Clements. He has almost 4 decades of experience working as a school transportation professional, having only recently joined the ranks of the semi-retired. He formerly served as the Director of Transportation at the Kings Canyon Unified School District, where he led his district to receive grants of over $10 million dollars earmarked for clean transportation initiatives.
It was clear in talking with him that he is passionate about transportation — specifically, buses. After retiring, he kept going with the momentum he had built up and finished off the work to allocate funding for several grant packages that were mid-flight.
Rebates, Get Your Rebates!
John’s decades of experience in navigating what can be a complex world of local, state, federal, air district, and school district rebates are now being leveraged by the eLion team to lower the bar for school-bus fleet managers across the US and help them get into a new zero-emission eLion bus.
For context, an electric school bus can cost anywhere from $200,000–300,000, but the rebates can stack up equally fast, easily coming in around $100,000, with some hitting $110,000 per bus in California.
As of November 2015, the eLion is approved and on the official California Air Resources Board (CARB) Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) list. Our pals north of the border are getting some love as well, as the Quebec Government launched an Electric School Bus Purchase Incentive for all Quebec school districts in March 2016.
The folks up at eLion are building the only electric Type C school bus in North America and have been delivering them to customers all over North America for over a year now.
Under the Hood
The eLion is powered by a TM4 Motor that packs as much power as the average diesel-powered school bus … with one major shortcoming — no pollution. I know, such a bummer. Haha.
Unlike many hybrids or natural gas–powered “clean air vehicles” that only serve to muddy the waters and shift the pollution origins to a different fuel, the TM4 motor is the only source of propulsion for the eLion, meaning zero emissions from the bus.
School districts can even install solar or tap local hydro power (I’m looking at you, Canada) for completely renewable, zero-emissions driving day in and day out.
The eLion Saves the Day
With the sizable rebates stacked up against a price that’s within the budgets of many school districts looking to replace perpetually aging bus fleets, the eLion is a serious contender and the story doesn’t stop there.
For those who aren’t in the know, electric vehicles don’t use fossil fuels, so you won’t have to worry about maintaining a separate fueling station at the fleet maintenance yard or the fuel contracts to keep your reservoir filled. In fact, driving on electric is typically much more cost effective than driving on fossil fuels, and as a special bonus, it’s much quieter, not as stinky, and is a much smoother ride.
Finally, the maintenance costs of operating an electric school bus are far lower than any fossil fuel–powered vehicle on the roads today. This means less downtime, fewer parts purchased, and fewer folks required to put wrenches to the fleet. In other words, more driving … for less money.
Take in a quick video about the eLion in French HERE or in English below, which shows a “day in the life of an eLion.” For more information about the eLion, mosey on over to the official website HERE.