Department of Energy Awards Blue Bird $4.4 Million to Develop Electric School Bus

The United States Department of Energy is awarding Blue Bird Corporation, a bus manufacturer based in Fort Valley, GA, $4.4 million to develop a zero-emissions, 100 percent vehicle-to-grid (V2G) electric school bus.

The award is part of $15 million the energy department set aside late last year to accelerate the adoption of advanced and alternative fuel vehicles.

“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,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation, in a statement. “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 bust must be an affordable, “low cost” electric bus solution. Additionally, Blue Bird is looking to implement V2G technology that will allow the bus to put electricity back into the grid — which may help bring much-needed funds to school districts.

“The development of a low-cost electric school bus is an investment that could save state resources in the long term,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in a statement. “We are excited to see Blue Bird develop this new technology here in Georgia.”

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.

According to Michael Simon, president and CEO of TransPower, a supplier of power and energy storage for the “green economy,” 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,” he said in a statement. “Supplying electric drive components for say, 500 buses as year, would have the potential to create up to 250 new jobs in California.”

Combined with matching funds from other public and private entities in California, the total project funding will be more than $9 million and result in an eight bus demonstration fleet deployed in California by 2019.

Earlier this week, UC Irvine announced that it is converting its entire bus fleet to 20 new electric buses for the 2017-18 school year, making it the first college campus in the nation to scrap its traditional diesel fuel-powered fleet in favor of alternative energy transportation.

Founded in 1927, Blue Bird Corporation is a leading independent designer and manufacturer of school buses, with more than 550,000 buses sold since its formation and approximately 180,000 buses in operation today.

For more information about the company, visit Blue Bird’s website.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].