In December 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that they would be awarding $15 million to organizations in an effort to accelerate the adoption of advanced and alternative fuel vehicles. Blue Bird Corporation, a bus manufacturer located in Fort Valley, Georgia, was presented the largest amount at $4.4 million in order to develop a zero-emissions, 100% vehicle-to-grid (V2G) electric school bus.
“As the leader in alternative fuel bus solutions, the addition of an electric school bus rounds out our portfolio,” says Phil Horlock, President and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. “Thanks to this award from the Department of Energy, we will be able to pursue the development of this technology based on our many years of research. As we celebrate our 90th anniversary in 2017, the timing of this grant is impeccable!”
One of the stipulations of the award is that the bus will be an affordable, “low-cost” electric bus solution. Additionally, Blue Bird is looking to implement technology, known as V2G, that will allow the bus to put electricity back into the grid, which may help bring much-needed funds to school districts. “This initiative will provide resources to explore alternative fuels for school transportation while sending energy back to the grid,” said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. “The development of a low-cost electric school bus is an investment that could save state resources in the long term. We are excited to see Blue Bird develop this new technology here in Georgia.”
“Blue Bird has a solid reputation and the company has been an asset to Georgia’s economy,” said U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson. “I applaud the decision by the Department of Energy and other entities to award this funding to a company that continues to make a positive impact.”
However, Blue Bird is not unfamiliar with this technology. “We were first to market with an electric school bus in 1994,” explained Dennis Whitaker, Vice President of Product Development for Blue Bird. “Since then, we have been closely monitoring this technology, and have found that recent battery management advances have made this project viable. We should see our first new Blue Bird electric school bus in 2019.”
As a zero-emissions vehicle, this electric bus will be able to take away thousands of pounds of particulate matter from the air, making a positive impact on the environment, and the children these buses transport. “I am thrilled that Blue Bird has been awarded this grant by the Department of Energy,” said U.S. Congressman Sanford Bishop, representative of middle and southwest Georgia. “Not only has Blue Bird contributed to the local community for over 90 years by providing jobs, but it has also produced a multitude of ‘green’ vehicles in recent years. I am excited to see they are now able to produce even more solutions that positively impact the environment and future generations of bus riders.”
According to Michael Simon, President and CEO of TransPower, this electric bus solution could also create additional jobs throughout the United States. “Once these electric buses go into production, there is a huge potential for job growth,” said Simon. “Supplying electric drive components for say, 500 buses a year, would have the potential to create up to 250 new jobs in California.”
Kevin Matthews, Managing Director for National Strategies, whose firm developed the application and will serve as Project Manager, stated that, “This project will take us far down the road to deploying and operating a zero-emission school bus that is cost-effective for school districts across the United States. We thank DOE for this award, and applaud Blue Bird’s leadership in this arena.”
Combined with matching funding from other public and private entities in California, the total project funding will be over $9 million and will result in an eight-bus demonstration fleet deployed in California by 2019.