Blue Bird All American and Vision Electric School Buses Powered by XALT Energy Batteries

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Blue Bird All American and Vision Electric School Buses Powered by XALT Energy Batteries

School Transportation News recently published an article titled, “Webinar Answers Common Questions on Electric School Buses”. In this article school bus dealer A-Z Bus Sales, manufacturer Blue Bird Corp., and electric drivetrain provider ADOMANI, Inc. answered questions on all-electric school bus purchases and use in California, while four local air quality management districts shared how they could assist with grant funds.

Electric school buses are best used for routine routes. Tim Shannon, who is the transportation director for the Twin Rivers Unified School District just outside of Sacramento, said his 16 electric buses are “pretty efficient” for running all but three of his 300 routes and added that stop-and-start traffic helps with regenerative braking. Shannon’s district has the nation’s largest fleet of all-electric school buses in use.

Rick Eckert, ADOMANI’s chief operating officer, said the new Blue Bird All American and Vision electric school bus models are powered by XALT Energy batteries, which are certified to withstand 3,000 full recharge cycles. Mid-day recharges between routes do not count against this number, adding that a full cycle is measured from a zero-level battery to full charge. Based on a count of about 190 school days per year, he said it would take about 10 years before the life of the original batteries begin to degrade, though customers could still expect the buses to operate at about 70 to 80 percent efficiency. Eckert said that the XALT Energy battery used by Blue Bird offers a total of 160 kWh, with 19.2 kW coming back into the bus per hour during charging. The recommended time for a full charge is roughly eight hours. Batteries also can’t be fully charged or fully run out to help preserve life.

Blue Bird All Electric Busses
Blue Bird All Electric Busses


“It is recommended that (the buses) are plugged at all times, anyway. It won’t overcharge because the system won’t allow it to,” Eckert confirmed.

He added that ADOMANI has seen battery prices come down due to competition in the marketplace and improvements to battery chemistry.

Carol Dietrich, director of technical communications and training for Blue Bird, said that the manufacturer offers a video series for training purposes and is working on another video for drivers to teach the best driving habits for maximum battery efficiency and range. Dealers like A-Z Bus can help technicians get on-site training from the Blue Bird Academy, which will also be presenting a training course during the STN EXPO this July.

Brandon Bluhm, director of sales for A-Z Bus Sales, stressed that dealers should be assisting districts who purchase electric buses, not just sell them the vehicle and then leave them without support. Warranties are also handled through the dealer, and in California “there’s a lot of resources on the ground to see these buses are running smoothly,” he added.

Electric buses are proven to reduce operating costs in the real world, as Shannon said he has seen an 82 percent reduction in fuel costs and expects a 75 percent reduction in maintenance costs this year. The STN Fuel Calculator helps estimate fuel savings that can be achieved by switching to electric or any of the available fuels for school buses.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the amount of grant funds that are coming for school districts specifically,” Bluhm declared. “So we encourage everyone to do your research, understand the programs that are available and prepare your district so that you can take advantage of these opportunities.”

Tina McRee from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said $60 million is available through the Carl Moyer Program and the Community Air Protection program that targets disadvantaged or high-pollution areas. Buses, charging equipment and infrastructure are eligible, and more funding is available for projects that will reduce more pollution.

Bluhm said interested parties should determine how much of their fleet they want to convert, look at differences in electric school bus offerings, get quotes from their dealer, consult with the local air quality management district to see which funding opportunities are available, determine which buses could be replaced, organize the paperwork that will be needed, and get infrastructure quotes.

“We’re very excited about the technology and the developments that are happening,” Bluhm concluded. “Know that there’s quite a bit of opportunity here for school districts to take advantage of.”

You can read the full article here.