Blue Bird recently unveiled its new Electric Vehicle (EV) Build-up Center in Fort Valley, Georgia. The company repurposed an almost 40,000 sq.ft. facility to accommodate the growing need for electric, zero-emission school buses. At the EV Build-up Center, skilled technicians equip the vehicles with electric batteries and other necessary parts, building them into environmentally friendly electric school buses.
The Electric Vehicle (EV) Build-up Center, located within Blue Bird’s primary U.S. manufacturing facility in Fort Valley, Georgia, was repurposed to address the rising demand for electric school buses. This development signifies a significant step forward as Blue Bird aims to increase its daily electric school bus production capacity from 4 to 20 vehicles, allowing for some serious improvement in production capacity.
School districts in the U.S. and Canada are increasingly shifting their bus fleets toward electric, zero-emission vehicles in an effort to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, enhance the well-being of students and communities, and counteract rising fuel expenses. To expedite the adoption of electric school buses and the necessary charging infrastructure, school districts are leveraging substantial public funding sources.
Currently, over $10 billion from federal, state, provincial, and local funds has been allocated for zero- and low-emission school buses. This includes the allocation of $5 billion over five years for clean school bus transportation under the Biden Administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the same law that’s transforming access to charging infrastructure for the drivers of smaller EVs in the United States.
“Based on the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law alone we anticipate thousands of additional electric school bus orders valued at an estimated $1 billion over five years,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. “Our new EV Build-up Center reflects Blue Bird’s steadfast commitment to school districts across the U.S. and Canada to meet increasing demand and deliver clean, safe, and reliable student transportation when they need it.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is expected that 30% of all model year 2027 school buses will be powered by electricity. The EPA’s newly proposed greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles project this number to rise to 45% for model year 2032 school buses. Blue Bird’s EV Build-up Center aims to bolster the company’s long-term production capacity, allowing for the manufacture of up to 5,000 electric school buses annually.
The EV Build-up Center by Blue Bird is a component of a multi-million dollar investment aimed at upgrading the company’s manufacturing facility in Fort Valley, Georgia. This new center will include a dedicated assembly line specifically for electric school buses. Skilled technicians will be responsible for installing electric batteries and other essential parts, converting the vehicles into emission-free electric school buses.
Currently, Blue Bird holds a leading position in clean transportation with nearly 1,000 electric-powered, zero-emission school buses in operation. The EV Build-up Center will assemble Vision and All American electric school buses, which are zero-emission vehicles capable of accommodating 77 to 84 students and traveling up to 120 miles on a single charge.
Blue Bird’s EV Build-up Center is equipped with InCharge Energy ICE-30 chargers and mobile carts, enabling flexible charging options for electric school buses before they are delivered to customers. With this charging infrastructure in place, newly-assembled buses at the EV Build-up Center can be fully charged within four hours.
As the sole US-owned and operated school bus manufacturer in the United States, Blue Bird plays a vital role in the transition to clean student transportation. This shift not only contributes to environmental sustainability but also helps maintain approximately 2,000 well-paying jobs within the company.
Why This Matters
Electric school buses are becoming increasingly important for the health of children, their communities, and potentially the electrical grid. Electric school buses are powered by electricity rather than diesel fuel, which produces fewer emissions and is better for the environment. This reduces air pollution in the communities where these buses operate, leading to improved air quality and healthier environments for children. Furthermore, electric school buses can also reduce noise pollution in neighborhoods, making them quieter and more pleasant places to live.
In addition to reducing environmental impacts, electric school buses can also provide economic benefits. The cost of operating an electric bus is significantly lower than a diesel bus due to lower maintenance costs and fuel savings. This can help schools save money on transportation costs while still providing safe and reliable transportation for students.
Finally, electric school buses can also provide benefits to the electrical grid by helping balance out peak demand during certain times of day. By charging during off-peak hours when electricity is cheaper and then discharging during peak hours when electricity is more expensive, electric school buses can help reduce overall energy costs while providing a reliable source of energy storage for the grid.
Overall, electric school buses offer numerous benefits that make them an important part of creating healthier communities and a more sustainable future, so it’s essential that we keep trying to get more of them and fewer of the diesel and gas buses they’re replacing. Plus, with the advantages they could pose for stabilizing local electrical grids, they could have much broader impacts.
Other Ways Blue Bird Has Been Chasing This Goal
Blue Bird Corporation has been a player in the school bus industry since 1927, so many of us have had at least one ride on one! And it has continued to innovate over the years. In 2020, Blue Bird became the first company to deploy electric school buses in Texas with their three Blue Bird Vision Electric school buses. The district anticipates delivery of the new buses in the fourth quarter of 2022, and these buses can carry up to 84 passengers.
In 2021, Blue Bird announced a repower program that allows customers to invest in new school buses with a built-in option for an electric powertrain. This innovative program is designed to meet current transportation needs while also providing an option for zero-emission vehicles.
This most recent school bus factory in Georgia, which will be able to build 5,000 buses per year, is just another step on that journey. It will be interesting to see where it expands next!
Featured image provided by Blue Bird.
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