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Blue Bird Electric School Bus Gets Better

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The iconic, nearly 100-year-old bus maker Blue Bird has been producing electric buses for a few years, and now it’s introducing a new and improved version.

“Blue Bird buses carry the most precious cargo in the world – the majority of 25 million children twice a day – making us the most trusted brand in the industry,” the company writes. While it may be proud of what it’s done over the past century, if it is really intent on protecting kids, it now needs to make sure it’s electrifying as fas as possible. One of the greatest harms — probably the greatest harm — to children across the United States is air pollution, and a chunk of that comes from school buses. Almost 1,000 Blue Bird electric school buses are on roads across North America today, but that number needs to grow considerably. The good news is that the company’s brand new “EV Build-up Center” will allow it to build 5,000 electric buses a year, fast increasing the number of electric units on the road.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Build-up Center in Fort Valley, Georgia. The 40,000 sq. ft. facility will be able to produce 5,000 electric school buses a year. “Highly-trained technicians install electric batteries and other components at the EV Build-up Center to turn the vehicles into emission-free electric school buses.” Image courtesy of Blue Bird.

The new Vision electric school bus from Blue Bird is from a collaboration with Accelera by Cummins, which is “Cummins’ zero-emissions technology business segment.” The electric bus is getting 25% more energy storage capacity in its battery, with that rising to 196 kWh. That provides 130 miles of range on a single charge, far more than a typical school drives in a single day. It can also charge more quickly than before, with a max charge rate of 80 kW that can fully recharge the battery in three hours. Whether charging at night or in the middle of the day, that gets the job done.

The greater battery capacity and max charging rate also make vehicle-to-grid utilization easier and more fruitful. “In addition, Blue Bird improved the warranty on the upgraded system to allow for 360 MWh of energy throughput, more than double the amount compared to the standard battery offering,” the company writes. “This will benefit Blue Bird customers who utilize the batteries’ revenue-generating vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capabilities. V2G technology allows EV fleet operators to sell excess energy stored in school bus batteries back to electric power companies at a profit.”

School buses are an ideal option for either midday or middle-of-the-night V2G services since they have extremely predictable driving patterns and V2G capability can be planned in between. Also, again, they often don’t drive a great deal. They pick up and drop off kids on set routes within the school districts where they operate.

The new Vision electric school bus is approximately 1000 lb lighter than the previous generation thanks to lighter batteries and improved efficiency, and it has increased from a 72-passenger capacity to a 77-passenger capacity.

Basically, the company is indicating that almost everything has improved. The bus also works better now in cold conditions. “In addition, the advanced Vision electric school bus performs even better in cold weather climates than its predecessor. An improved engineering design and internally insulated batteries limit the heat loss in the vehicle’s next-generation energy storage system. Furthermore, a new optional fuel-fired heating system generates over 20 percent more cabin heat than the current solution.”

Blue Bird is showing off its new Vision electric school bus for the first time right now at a major student transportation industry and technology event in Nevada, STN Expo West. (It’s at booth 317 inside the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada, if you happen to be at or near the event.)

“Over the past century, Blue Bird has emerged as an iconic company at the forefront of technology advancement and innovation in the school bus industry,” said Britton Smith, president of Blue Bird Corporation, which operates nearly 1,000 electric school buses in North America today. “With our next-generation Vision electric school bus, we continue to take clean student transportation to the next performance level and provide superior, zero-emission buses to school districts across North America. Blue Bird is ever evolving.” One thing I did not realize about the company: it says that it is “the only US-owned and operated school bus manufacturer in the United States.”

Featured image courtesy of Business Wire

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