Photo courtesy of Lightning eMotors.

Lightning eMotors Jacks Up Electric School Bus Production With GM-Based Lightning ZEV4 Platform

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Lightning eMotors has begun production of its next-generation Type A electric school bus that is built on the GM 4500 platform. In the 130,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Loveland, Colorado, the first orders for nearly 70 next-generation Type A electric school buses have started to move across the production floor.

Over 20 school districts across the country have purchased these zero-emission, all-electric buses, and many of them are doing so by utilizing state funding and/or the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program, which will provide school districts $5 billion between 2022 and 2026 to encourage the electrification of school buses.

By combining these funds with the IRA commercial vehicle incentive, which grants schools $40,000 per electric vehicle, schools may purchase electric school buses without having to raise taxes or have special budget referendums. More than 650 school districts throughout the nation, including these ones, have committed to electrifying their fleets.

“Thanks to federal EPA and IRA funding, as well as an increasing number of state-level initiatives, clean school transportation, is now truly a nationwide phenomenon,” said Kash Sethi, chief revenue officer for Lightning eMotors. “We’re actively supporting school districts nationally to leverage this opportunity and, as a result, we’re ramping up production and rolling out school buses in communities across the country and are expecting an active sales pipeline.”

The next-generation Lightning ZEV4 is based on the adaptable GM 4500 platform and is used by Lightning to manufacture electric school buses. The 120 kWh batteries are neatly tucked between the frame rails. This is how all Lightning ZEV4 versions are outfitted. With a range of up to 130 miles, each engine produces 241 horsepower and 790 lb-ft of torque. Additionally, the ZEV4 is V2G compatible and able to charge at Level 2 AC and 80 kW DC fast charging.

“We’ve come a long way since first announcing our collaboration with GM last year to electrify GM-based class 3–6 vehicles for commercial applications, including our ZEV4 school buses,” said Lightning eMotors CEO Tim Reeser. “Working with partners like GM to ramp up production and roll out electric school buses across the U.S. is just another example of how we are leading in commercial vehicle electrification, with more medium-duty electric vehicles on the road than anyone else.”

There are significant environmental and health benefits connected with lower tailpipe emissions, in addition to the financial advantages tied to state and federal financing efforts like the Inflation Reduction Act and the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program. Additionally, the current state of the economy makes electric school buses more appealing than ever. When replacing aging diesel buses or adding new buses to school bus fleets, electric buses use no fossil fuels and require less maintenance, lowering the total cost of ownership at a time when interest rates, fuel prices, and the cost of parts and labor for repairs are at all-time highs.

With a total of more than 600 electric vehicles in use since their introduction, Lightning vehicles have traveled over 4 million actual miles and prevented close to 5.5 million pounds of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere.

The Type A school buses are the smaller version of the bigger buses. Typically, they drive students over shorter distances, such as within a school district or small town. This makes the 130-mile range of the Lightning Type A electric school bus perfect for common transport needs, such as transportation to and from schools, field trips, and extracurricular activities.

They are also commonly used as activity and special needs buses because they are easier to load and unload than larger types. Type A buses often come equipped with specialized features and accommodations for students with disabilities. It is a versatile type of bus, and the best part is that with the Lightning Type A electric school bus, there are zero emissions!

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