Blue Bird awarded $4.4 million to develop electric school bus

Blue Bird buses are familiar to every American who has kids, or who ever attended school. The Georgia-based manufacturer (Nasdaq: BLBD) has built over 550,000 buses since its formation in 1927, and approximately 180,000 of its classic yellow buses are in operation today.

Now the company has won a grant of $4.4 million from the DOE to support the development of a zero-emission school bus with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capability.

Blue Bird is not unfamiliar with electric drive technology. “We were first to market with an electric school bus in 1994,” explained Dennis Whitaker, Vice President of Product Development. “Since then, we have been closely monitoring this technology, and have found that recent battery management advances have made this project viable. We should see our first new Blue Bird electric school bus in 2019.”

One of the stipulations of the award is that the bus will be an affordable, low-cost solution. V2G technology will allow the bus to put electricity back into the grid, which may help bring much-needed funds to school districts. “The development of a low-cost electric school bus is an investment that could save state resources in the long term,” said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.

According to Michael Simon, CEO of TransPower, this electric bus solution could also create additional jobs throughout the US. “Once these electric buses go into production, there is a huge potential for job growth,” said Simon. “Supplying electric drive components for say, 500 buses a year, would have the potential to create up to 250 new jobs in California.”

Combined with matching funding from other public and private entities in California, the total project funding will be over $9 million. A demonstration fleet of eight buses is to be deployed in California by 2019.


Source: Blue Bird
mage: Jan-Erik Finnberg/Flickr

  • gizmowiz

    This is such good news for our kids to avoid breathing in the stink of diesel fumes.

    Now if they will just go the next mile and add airbags and seat belts. At least one of those.

    • Ramon A. Cardona

      Safety also can be enhanced by schools by having improved training and supervision of drivers. Also, the time allowed for the routes need to be improved. Too many drivers rush about trying to keep a schedule that is too tight.

    • trackdaze

      Given the massive inertia of a battery powered bus i would imagine it would anihalate/ plow through anything in its way rendering airbags and seatbelts a redundant measure.

      Besides driver assist technologies like lane keep assist and emergency braking will likely see duty in the fleet. Though its probably more effective in reducing incidents with buses in the vehicles around the bus firstly.

  • brian_gilbert

    Is there something special about school buses? There have been many reports of other companies such as BYD, developing electric vehicles of similar type. I would have expected their designs to suit school busses.

    • Electric Bill

      Brian Gilbert: over and above the factors Edward mentioned, school and transit buses have a predictable, set route: you can know just how far a bus may need to drive on one charge, how many times you have to go up and down hills, and other factors dictating the overall size and power density of the battery pack. Transit bus and school bus demands are fairly predictable. That is quite different from a car used for daily travel where children may or may not need to be driven to school, soccer practice, etc. Then there are the trips to the dry cleaners, supermarket, and other venues that may make every day markedly different in terms of needed range and power density.

      • brian_gilbert

        Thankyou for that information, Electric Bill. Simce writing that commemt I came across a December 2016 report that a a UK Research Group ‘Augmented Optics’ have found a way to increase supercapacitor storage capacity by 100 times. They do not have the fumds to go into production so we must wait and see if it reaches that stage through a licencee. If it does then electric vehicles could just stop at the usual gas/petrol station at the usual interval to ‘fill up’, solving some existing problems.

      • EVman

        test test test

  • ed monfort

    Not sure why they keep releasing this story over and over but here is your answer…..Diesel school buses still create a massive amount of pollution and harmful particulits.
    These harmful items are most dangerous with young developing lungs. The route and miles of the school bus is perfect for distance and charge time and return on investment for the government.
    It also allows emergency back up power for government facilities that host emergency situations.

  • EVman

    test test