Blue Bird Delivers First Electric School Buses In North America

OCT 1 2018 BY MARK KANE 19

Electric Blue Birds take flight.

As promised, Blue Bird Corporation began deliveries of its first all-electric buses that were unveiled in late 2017 – just in time for the new school year.

Customers in California received seven Type-D All American Rear Engine Electric school buses, while one Type A Micro Bird G5 Electric school bus was delivered to a customer in Ontario.

As it turns out, for now, customers are able to offset most or the entire cost of the electric school buses through various grants. Hopefully, those vehicles will soon become affordable without subsidies:

All of the customers who obtained electric school buses were able to do so through the help of financial grants offered by various entities and government programs. These grants helped to pay for all or part of the cost of the buses, as well as some necessary infrastructure costs.

Jack Matrosov of Wheelchair Accessible Transit, based in Toronto, Ontario, was able to add a Micro Bird G5 Electric school bus to his fleet through the use of the Electric and Hydrogen Vehicle Incentive Program (EHVIP), which is offered by Ontario’s government.

“When the EHVIP Grant became available, we were thrilled to find out that Micro Bird had an electric bus solution in the works. Over 90% of our fleet are Micro Bird buses and we feel these buses offer great quality, and good local service when needed,” said Matrosov. He added that the grant also allowed him to cover nearly all of the costs of the infrastructure needed for this bus.

The larger, 72-passenger buses ordered by customers in California have a similar design to the many Blue Bird Type D CNG buses that districts operate in the state today. These districts utilized many California-based grants, including South Coast AQMD and HVIP, which helped to pay towards the cost of the buses and infrastructure.

“We were excited to find out, in the midst of the search process, that Blue Bird had created an electric bus solution,” said Hector Morales, supervisor of M.O.T. of Mountain View School District in El Monte, CA. “Our mechanic is familiar with Blue Bird Type D buses, so it was an easy choice for our fleet.”

“We decided to go with Blue Bird’s electric school buses, because we know the level of service we require will be available to us,” said Mark Toti, transportation manager at Bellflower Unified School District in Bellflower, CA. “We currently operate 26 Blue Bird CNG buses, and feel comfortable relying on local support from Blue Bird in order to introduce this new technology to our existing fleet.”

While grants were widely responsible for the purchase of these buses, manufacturers like Blue Bird see a future in this technology that will make these buses more affordable and wide-spread as a viable alternative fuel solution.

“We are thrilled to see our all-new Blue Bird electric school buses going into the hands of customers for the first time,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. “With zero-emissions, our electric school buses provide the cleanest possible environment for our customers and the children they transport. Also, with battery technology constantly advancing and becoming more efficient, we foresee a great future for growth.”

Categories: Bus


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19 Comments on "Blue Bird Delivers First Electric School Buses In North America"

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Good for kid’s health and any school district’s bottom line.

Agreed, but let me toss in another fact: In a lot of metro areas, at least in the US, you have a city surrounded by suburbs, all of which run their own school districts. As soon as one of them replaces, say, 5 of their 100 school buses with EVs and sees the financial benefits, things get very interesting. First, that one district will very quickly want to start replacing the other 95 buses. Second, school districts and taxpayers talk to each other, and there will be strong, immediate pressure from taxpayers for other area districts to start converting their fleets to EVs. If you’re on the school board of district A and it’s publicly known that district B right next door is saving money this way, you’ll become a big proponent of converting in a hurry, or be voted out in the next election. There’s a similar effect with other small/mid-size fleet operators. An HVAC contractor with 20 panel vans converts a few, and word gets out to other tradespeople in the area and pretty soon they’re looking to convert. We focus a lot here on the technology of EVs, which is understandable. For plugheads it’s sexy and fun,… Read more »


Even better would be if US jurisdictions would actually change the rules so that normal tour buses (of whatever size) could be used for school buses, as in every civilized country, instead of the environmentally horrible of using school buses for two trips a day. Not to mention requiring seatbelts on tour buses, which are almost non-existent in the US since they’re “too expensive”.

I thought Lion was the first electric school bus in North America? I rode in one in 2016 at EVS 29 in Montreal.

I think you are right. Must be some of that “exceptionalism” that prevents people from acknowledging “firsts” elsewhere.

Actually what I believe is happening here is that the article is saying these are the first electric school busses for Blue Bird. It can be read that way, and I’m certain that’s the real meaning.

Lion Electric has been showing at the Minnesota State Fair for years. And, as I recall, there are a lot more of them out there. N.America versus US, perhaps? Their website shows they need a lot more media coverage, a class 8 truck not covered by InsideEVs?

My town, Concord Mass, has had a Lion since early 2017 as part of a pilot project. For a complete report, see: DOER EV school bus pilot final report_.pdf

class 8 truck will be out before the end of 2018 , and yes it needs more coverage

It is about time!

Kids breathing in those diesel fumes while buses idling in front of school waiting for kids to load up is as dumb as it gets. Those buses didn’t even have PM filters!

Even as a small child I hated riding the bus due to diesel exhaust. I later noticed how most school busses have the exhaust pipe venting under the bus, as well. Just so many layers of stupid. I can’t handle it.

Put some solar panels on the roof, and set up V2G for off hours = home run.

“Yah baaby!!”

It should be noted that the Ontario EVIP program that helped fund the Ontario bus has been cancelled by the new Doug Ford Conservative government.

Boo on Ford.

Any idea what these cost vs. the normal diesel Blue Birds?

And do they use the standard J1772 EVSE gear? Just curious…

Looks like they use standard J1772 charging.

While the school bus fleet is an enormous electrification opportunity, the details of this story are disappointing. Despite a near ideal use-case scenario, including easily capitalized costs, sensitivity to costs of operation and maintenance, sensitivity to presence of pollutant emissions while idling, availability of incentives, level of available government partnership, we achieved, according to the story, a grand total of 8 buses delivered. Is it just me, or is it generally obvious that if a design team was given the task of designing from scratch a 70-80 passenger electric school bus that was the safest and most efficient over its typical expected route, the result would be extremely unlikely to look like the E-adapted conventional buses on offer. Have a look at bus production and you won’t see a shining example of lean efficiency. The fact that there isn’t an EV manufacturer aligned with a 21st century school bus is a bit confounding. Wouldn’t a marketer like to get their brand out on the front of these vehicles and in front of young minds impressionable to values of safety and reliability? Perhaps that little piece of cable on a hinge swinging out from the front bumper disallows them from crossing… Read more »

I know these are from Lion and only 5, but this is the start on the East cost of US.