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Electrification isn’t just for big school buses

A Type A school bus
Enlarge / Lightning eMotors will supply EV powertrains to Collins Bus to electrify these Type A school buses.

Collins Bus

These days, I’m just as excited about electrifying vehicles like school buses and garbage trucks as I am about electrifying passenger cars. Replacing a hot and noisy gasoline or diesel powertrain with batteries and electric motors makes life better for the drivers (and riders, in the case of a bus), with less noise and vibration—benefits that extend to everyone else in near proximity, too.

Even better news is that school districts around the country are in the process of electrifying their bus fleets. Montgomery County, Maryland, and the Commonwealth of Virginia have both announced ambitious plans that also involve using the buses as vehicle-to-grid energy storage when not in use.

The District of Columbia, which is sandwiched between Montgomery County and Northern Virginia, is also finalizing its electrification roadmap. Unlike its suburban neighbors, its fleet of buses are the smaller Type A buses, but there’s an ever-growing selection of these vehicles to choose from.

Colorado-based Lightning eMotors, which we last saw electrifying Transit vans for DHL Express, is now getting into the school bus game, partnering with Collins Bus, a leading manufacturer of the smaller yellow school buses.

The bus uses a Ford E-450 chassis, but instead of a thirsty V6, V8, or V10, Lightning supplies a 396 hp (295 kW), 878 lb-ft (1,190 Nm) electric motor, fed by a 127-kWh battery pack. AC charging is a bit more powerful than most passenger electric vehicles at 19.2 kW. The buses can also DC fast-charge at 60 kW and will be capable of vehicle-to-grid interactions. The first buses are scheduled for delivery this fall.

“Collins has decades of bus manufacturing experience and is a long-standing leader in Class A school buses, with a well-established and loyal dealer network and customer base,” said Tim Reeser, CEO of Lightning eMotors. “We are thrilled that they have selected us to be their EV technology partner. There are nearly half a million school buses in the US that are sitting at peak electric times available to put energy back on the grid, making student transportation a key part in reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”

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