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Iconic yellow school bus maker Blue Bird opens new electric bus factory

Blue Bird, a century-old maker of America’s iconic yellow school buses, has opened a new production facility to meet the growing demand for electric school buses. Announced via a press release (and a cute promotional video) on Thursday, a new 40,000-square-foot “electric vehicle build-up center” has opened at Blue Bird’s main manufacturing plant in Fort Valley, Georgia, which has been called the company’s Designed to increase production. Electric school buses increased from 100 to 5,000 per year.

Electric versions of Blue Bird’s “Vision” (a classic “Type C” bus with a capacity of 77 passengers) and “All American” (a flat-fronted “Type D” bus for 84 passengers) buses are assembled at the new facility. Will go Each is equipped with a 155kWh battery that provides approximately 120 miles of range and takes three to eight hours to recharge. There are currently around 1,000 Blue Bird electric buses in operation, which is six per cent of the company’s total volume. The company currently manufactures four electric school buses each day, but expects its new EV facility to increase production to 20 buses a day.

Electric versions of the Blue Bird Vision (pictured left) and All American (right) will be produced at the new facility in Georgia.
Image: Blue Bird

Blue Bird Electric is anticipating a significant increase in demand for school buses. School districts in the US and Canada have begun replacing their conventionally powered bus fleets with fully electric models in a bid to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, save fuel costs and improve student health. Especially in the US, sales of electric school buses are expected to soar due to billions of dollars in stimulus under President Biden’s infrastructure plan.

“Based on the historic bipartisan infrastructure legislation alone we anticipate thousands of additional electric school bus orders worth 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 unwavering commitment to school districts across the US and Canada to meet growing demand and provide clean, safe and reliable student transportation when they need it.”

Billions of dollars in stimulus under Biden’s infrastructure plan are driving demand for all-electric school buses

School buses are an ideal candidate for moving away from traditional fuels such as diesel (which now accounts for less than half the volume of Blue Bird). In addition to preventing school children from being exposed to harmful emissions, the short, fixed route of school buses is well suited for range-limited EVs. They also have long periods outside of school running twice where they are not in operation, giving them plenty of time to recharge.

Sensing strong demand, the Biden-Harris administration nearly doubled last year’s cash pool for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus Program waiver from $500 million to $965 million. According to the EPA’s new proposed greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles, the agency estimates that 45 percent of all school buses produced by 2032 will be EVs.

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