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Clean Transport

Published on May 17th, 2016 | by Kyle Field


Lion Bus Shows Off The New eLion Electric School Bus

May 17th, 2016 by  


The eLion at the California State Capitol | Image courtesy eLion

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.

IMG_1401 eLion

Fully Charged and Ready to Roll | Photo by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica (CC BY-SA 4.0), via CleanTechnica.pics

Charging Made Easy


Image Credit: Kyle Field

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.

Team eLion

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.

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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. TSLA investor. Tesla referral link: http://ts.la/kyle623

  • JamesWimberley

    A bit off-topic, but can an American reader explain why the USA has a special type of vehicle called a “school bus” at all? The function exists in other parts of the world, of course: carried out using standard off-the-shelf buses with a sign at the front saying “school bus” or equivalent.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Sure. A sizable part of the population lives where there are no public transportation options. The only way to get students to school is to run a transportation system for them.

      I live in a place where high school students ride over an hour to get to school. We have a local elementary school but some of those students are a half hour away from school.

      I’m not sure it would make sense to run those routes with urban buses. And urban buses have too low seat counts. School buses are optimized to give everyone a seat.

      • It does seem that the buses could pull double duty and just run a different route during the middle of the day and at night…though this would require larger stacks of batteries.

      • JamesWimberley

        The seating is a trivial adaptation. Rural buses everywhere maximise seating. What costs more are differences in chassis and powertrain.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “Rural buses everywhere maximise seating.”

          That’s not true in Thailand. They use the same buses that are used for urban non-aircon routes.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thinking it through. In several of the countries where I have traveled there is no “local rural” bus. There are intercity buses that travel from town to town and will stop for passengers along the way. People walk out or catch a ride out to the highway and flag down the bus.

            In Ecuador the buses are quite comfortable, much like good US buses and certainly are not optimized for seating. In Sri Lanka the buses are nice but not up to Ecuadorian standards. It’s not until one gets into more remote, less developed places where one sees old school buses repurposed for public transportation. In Nepal I can barely fit in the seats because there is so little knee from between rows (and I’m average height).

            No, that’s a lie. I was average height. I’m now well into the “you lose an inch of height each decade after age 50” phase. But my femurs haven’t, as far as I know, shrunk.

    • ADW

      To build on what Bob stated, the ‘school bus’ is optimized for the task,high seating count, optimized for shorter travel distances and travel times, no bathrooms, in many locations no A/C. Typically run for 3-4 hours in the morning then again in the afternoon.

      Typical school bus can be $65 – 90,000. USD

      The Urban /city transit buses have a much higher hours per day and miles driven need so they have a much different design, as well they are built to handle wheelchair load and unload that most school buses do not. (towns will buy/rent a single wheelchair transport if needed).

      Typical USA City bus can run closer to $400-600,000 USD


      • JamesWimberley

        Perhaps it simply reflects an absence of rural bus services in the USA? If the only service is for schools, then you get “school buses”. Where you have frequent general-service rural bus services, some of the buses get repurposed for the school run. Or the kids take the ordinary bus.

        • Bob_Wallace

          There are no rural bus services in the US. At least none I’ve ever seen. It’s impossible or very difficult to get from some towns to other towns by bus and the buses generally do not stop along the way to service passengers.

          A couple years back I needed to get from San Francisco to Placerville, a town on the way to Lake Tahoe. There were about five buses to Sacramento (two hours, half way) but none early enough to make the Sacramento/Placerville connection at 7AM. I had to stay overnight at a hotel in Sac then catch the Placerville bus the next morning for the last two hours of the trip. Neither bus made any stops along the way.

          Then I had to walk and thumb the last 8 miles to where my car was parked. (The cab company asked $150.)

          The US does not have rural public transportation.

    • hybridbear

      Minneapolis no longer offers school buses for High School students. Instead they are given a bus pass to ride the city bus to school each day. The program has saved money for the school district & has made the students happy since they can now get around anywhere on the city buses at no cost to them. The passes are restricted so that students cannot use them to ride the city buses after 10 pm.

      • Wayne Williamson

        That is such a great idea….

  • J.H.

    It is amazing what has transpired over the last 8 years in renewable technologies. The stimulus appears to be working and green energy industry is thriving. And to think about what the children that will take their first bus ride in an electric bus will experience over the next 8 years. Think about it. What do we have in common with a child that is getting on the bus for the first time. I would think that “WE would like the bus to arrive to its destination in a safe manor”. And brings up the issue of “Who is driving the bus?”. Do you want a bus drive with experience, that knows the road, and can handle adverse conditions.
    Or do you put your child on the bus for the first time with a bus driver that is driving the for the first time. The bus driver has know experience, has never been down that road before, does not do well in adverse conditions. And has a history Road Rage.
    If it was my child, I would want to make sure that the next 8 years will be a safe trip and has a smooth ride. We can not afford a bus wreck. We can not allow the inexperienced driver behind the wheel. It is all of our children on the bus.
    Hopefully the new electric bus will have seat belts.

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