School bus manufacturer Blue Bird has inaugurated what it calls the Electric Vehicle Build-Up Center on the grounds of its US manufacturing plant in Fort Valley, Georgia. The 40,000-square-foot facility is designed to meet the increasing demand for electric school buses, and the new plant will boost production capacity from 4 to 20 vehicles per day, according to the company.
Law Boosts Demand
The bipartisan infrastructure law has earmarked $5 billion to replace existing school buses with zero-emissions and low-emission models across the US. Blue Bird, which anticipates orders worth $1 billion over five years, said the funding will not only help reduce emissions and save fuel costs but also improve student and community health.
The new facility will feature an assembly line for electric school buses, and the company hopes to scale up production to 5,000 e-buses annually. Currently, 6 percent or about 1,000 of its operational buses are electric.
Blue Bird’s E-Bus Models
Blue Bird makes two e-bus models called Vision Electric and All American Electric. They are powered by Cummins PowerDrive 7000 electric drive system whose single motor produces 315 horsepower and 2400 pound-feet of torque. Powering the motor is a 155 kilowatt-hour battery, which provides up to 120 miles range, as per Blue Bird.
The identical drivetrain aside, they slightly differ in seating capacity, floor plan, and design. The Vision Electric can seat 77 and gets a traditional hood upfront. The All American Electric can seat up to 84 and gets a flat front end.
Benefits Of Electric School Buses
Studies have shown that exhaust fumes from diesel buses contain over 40 toxic air contaminants, carcinogens, and fine particulate matter among other harmful substances. Exposure to these particles can cause several health problems, including asthma and lung cancer, as per the CDC.
Broader adoption of electric school buses can help reduce pollution caused by mass transportation, according to the EPA. Clean mobility aside, the buses will likely come with other benefits like reduced maintenance costs, quieter operation, and the potential for reduced charging costs compared to diesel.
Lion Electric and Highland Electric are some of the other names in the electric school bus space that are also involved in a similar effort as Blue Bird. The EPA projects 30 percent of all model year 2027 school buses to be electric. That number is expected to rise to 45 percent by 2032.