Yellow is the new green: get on board the new eLion electric school bus

Québec-based Lion Bus showed its eLion Type C electric school bus at the recent ACT Expo in Long Beach.

The eLion features a modular battery design that allows customers to customize the range depending on their route distance, charging availability and desired price. Options range from 50 miles of range with 3 battery modules up to 100 miles of range with 5 modules.

An onboard 19.2 kW charger can charge each 26 kWh battery module in 1.3 hours (e.g. 6.5 hours to charge a 5-battery-module bus).

The cost of an electric school bus can range from $200,000 to $300,000, but governments, air districts and school districts offer a complex array of rebates that can add up to as much as $110,000 per bus (in California, naturally).



Source: Lion Buses via CleanTechnica
Image: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica (CC BY-SA 4.0), via

  • TonyWilliamsSanDiego

    School buses can become EV as quickly as the gasoline / diesel ones get retired. Even faster, when the obvious HUGE operational cost savings are factored in.

    With modular battery sizes, the right bus can be put on each route, and for those longer range trips for sporting events or field trips, more batteries installed for that bus.

    Obviously, having the ability for ubiquitous charging opportunities is key, should the bus ever find itself coming up short (detour, blizzard, etc). While a 19.2kW AC charger is great (240 volts / 80 amps), most public J1772 / L2 charge stations are only 30 amps, or less.

    So, I further recommend that the school bus be equipped with ubiquitous fast DC charging. CHAdeMO is the most plentiful fast charge protocol in the world (well over 11,000 installed), it’s the same plug everywhere in the world, there are dozens of charger manufacturers, and with up to 350 amp capability as soon as next year (2017), it will charge the bus from 50kW to 150kW.

    The future is indeed bright.

    Tony Williams
    R&D Manager
    TonyWilliams (((@)))
    Twitter: QCPower
    1-844-387-2787 ext 701

    • jamcl3

      So you recommend Chademo? Does that mean that you know for a fact that the voltage range is adequate? Many of not most heavy duty applications are running in the 700 VDC range these days, while Chademo is <500 VDC if I recall. And why would a school bus need fast charging with the attendant high electricity prices for peak rates? Most routes have a 6 hour layover while the students are in class which is enough for the largest battery configuration.

      • TonyWilliamsSanDiego

        The bus battery is under 500 volts, as far as I know.

        What does peak rate have anything to do with public fast charging? If the bus finds itself in a situation (detour, blizzard, emergency, etc) that needs extra energy, using the already available fast charge network makes sense.

        Just that simple.

        It ALREADY has J1772 charging for back at the garage.

        • jamcl3

          They are under 500 volts for now, but that probably will not last long. Investing in dead end technology like Chademo is what I call stranding your assets. Not that the alternatives are all that great at the moment. Some new standards are coming…

          • TonyWilliamsSanDiego

            So, build today’s bus for tomorrow’s potential technology?

            CHAdeMO is now spec’s to 1000 volts max.


            125a * 500v = 50kW max
            200a * 500v = 100kW design
            350a * 500v = “150kW in 2017 with existing plugs
            350a * 1000v = 350kW future design (that no vehicle can use yet)

    • Wade

      Utilities will be interested in demand side management. Utilities have demand charges, and charging rates only as fast as is needed will lower energy costs.

      • TonyWilliamsSanDiego

        See my reply above.

  • Stephen Bieda

    School buses usually have pretty fixed routes though so 100A breaker/ 80A continuous/ 19.2 kW AC is a lot less expensive option for infrastructure install. Some of the buses could have DC charging however for longer field trips. With a fleet of buses at your disposal you can always book the appropriately equipped bus for the route.

  • TonyWilliamsSanDiego

    Yes, most utilities have demand fees, as well as a lot of other fees. However, I t is doubtful that the highest utility costs in the world (including demand fees) would be more expensive than gasoline or diesel for a school bus. So, regardless of what electrical fees there may be, it will still likely far less expensive than the alternatives. And that’s if we give zero value to having our children not breathing exhaust fumes.

    Demand charge mitigation isn’t particularly difficult, as very low tech methods can be used; a simple device that monitors kW, and is programmed to not exceed a particular kW threshold for the facility / school while the buses are charging would be quite simple to implement. As the facility reaches its max kW programmed limit, all or some of the buses can be reduced in charging power, or stopped altogether. In addition, air handling equipment, air-conditioners, refrigerators, freezers and other high demand electrical loads at the facility can also be cycled during these peak times.

    In addition to electrical cost mitigation to the school or transit provider, any location where the buses are ordinarily charged would hopefully be mindful of having the least impact on the grid. Here, in California, where most of these buses are likely to be, on a sunny day, that best time might be in the middle of the day. In Texas, the best time might be when the wind is blowing. It could be late at night, daytime, or both.

    In summary, both total electrical costs and impact to the grid can be very easily managed with a fleet of vehicles that are only operated twice per day for an hour or so each time. There are lots of options, and most of those options are very low cost.

    • Wade

      We’re pretty much on the same page. Full disclosure: I’m an analyst at an electric utility, so I do cost of service studies, support rate cases, and create load forecasts, along with other load research studies.

      My thinking is that if Level 3 charging isn’t necessary, it shouldn’t be used. A Tesla Model S in everyday use should be charged on a L2 charger overnight under typical operating conditions. Yes it is L3 capable, but it should only be charged on an L3 charger away from home in abnormal conditions. Tesla has made that point repeatedly, and for good reason. Energy costs are significantly lower at home on an L2 charger for the same quantity of energy. Because it is more expensive for the utility to supply the Supercharger station than it is individual homes.

      Done right, EV’s are a Win-Win for utilities and consumers.

      • TonyWilliamsSanDiego

        As long as we understand that a “Level 2” or “Level 3 “charger doesn’t necessarily imply what the grid load is. From your utility perspective, the only thing you’re really concerned about is the peak kilowatt load and at what time of day that might be used (will peaker plants be required, total grid demand at point in time, real time equipment outages, etc).

        If I were charging 100 buses at 19.2 kW each on “Level 2” from 10am to 2pm for the afternoon bus run, and a spare bus needs 150 kW “Level 3” charging at 5 PM to 5:30pm for a baseball team trip, which load has the greater utility impact? Which load could potentially have the higher demand charge?

        Of course, the answer to that is not as obvious as it may seem, as there are so many variables between the hundreds of utilities in United States. But, generally speaking 1.9 MW is greater than 150 kW.

        • Wade

          Charging 100 buses at L2 for 4 hours is better than charging those 100 buses at L3 in 30 minutes. The spare bus is already fully charged, the night before at 3 AM.

          The rate incentivizes the bus owner/operator to charge that way. It they choose to charge those buses whenever way they want, they will pay the price. We strive to make it so cost causation matches appropriate prices.