The school bus, the twinkie, the big cheese, the cheese log, the cheese wagon… these are all nicknames for what is familiar to all of us as the school bus. All of us have seen them. Many of us have waited for them. A few of us have accidentally climbed aboard the wrong one. But the school bus, love it or hate it, is or was a part of all of our lives. Yet, not many of us have been on a ride on an electric one. That could be changing very soon for new riders because electric buses are in a sales boom right now.
School bus fleets are increasingly being electrified
Blue Bird is a mass producer of school buses. As such, they have a pretty good pulse on the school bus market. So, it is no surprise that while analyzing sales data they identified a trend in purchases. That trend is the electrification of school bus fleets.
According to our friends at InsideEVs, Blue Bird has noticed more municipalities are trying to purchase school buses with money from grants they qualify for that are contingent on diesel alternatives. In other words, if the municipality is in an area with stringent air quality requirements, the switch to electric powerplants may be partially funded by grant money. So, an electric bus purchase could mean less out of pocket expense for the municipality.
“As the only manufacturer currently producing every bus type in Electric, we can help districts start to introduce and potentially transform their entire fleet over time to zero emissions.” – Phil Horlock, President and CEO Blue Bird Corporation, press release 10/6/2020
Electric bus sales have increased by 250 percent
Blue Bird has identified the electrification trend and made a big move in preparation for the onslaught of anticipated orders. They have made electric versions of their bus models. That move is already paying off. According to the article, sales of Blue Bird buses increased 250 percent in fiscal 2020. Additionally, production is expected to expand 1,000 units annually.
There is another benefit to municipalities that buy electric buses that reaches beyond transporting children. Electric Blue Bird models are vehicle-to-grid capable (V2G). This means when they are not in use, some of the remaining charge can be sold back to the local power company, as regulations permit. Also, the other advantage of a bus that has V2G capability is that in a disaster recovery situation, the electric power from a bus can be used to supply energy until emergency crews arrive, much like the Nissan Re-Leaf vehicle.
No growling engine drone
For familiarization, below is a video of a Blue Bird electric bus ride. It shows the electric twinkie in action. The most striking thing about the video is the lack of a growling engine drone that we all have grown familiar with. Indeed, the noise level is one of the first things discussed when the bus gets in motion.
The move by Blue Bird to offer electric versions of their product line seems like it was smart business savvy. The increasing electrification of many fleet vehicles, not just buses, is probably inevitable. As a whole, the consumer is becoming more accepting of electric cars. So, it is only a matter of time before electric fleet usage is also adopted en masse. If that ends up being the case, then Blue Bird, although not the only electric bus maker, is in a very good position to be a solution provider.