Blue Bird, has unveiled a unique Class 5-6 electric vehicle platform at the 2022 Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo, North America’s largest advanced transportation technology and clean fleet event. The company builds on its nearly century-long expertise of school bus manufacturing to expand its zero-emission transportation solutions to the commercial vehicle market. Blue Bird’s flexible Class 5-6 chassis will enable a broad range of fully-electric vehicles, including last-mile delivery step vans, motorhomes, and other specialty vehicles.
Due to its modular design, the Blue Bird electric vehicle (EV) chassis allows for several battery configurations from 70kWh to 225kWh supporting a vehicle range of up to 175 miles on a single charge. The battery packs take between one and twelve hours to fully recharge depending on the charging infrastructure.
In addition, Blue Bird offers its Class 5-6 chassis with three wheelbase options of 178”, 190”, and 208” for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of up to 26,000 pounds. The company utilizes lightweight materials and components for its innovative vehicle platform, thereby, maximizing vehicle payload without compromising on vehicle safety.
Blue Bird offers several safety features on its EV chassis not standard on comparable electric vehicles to enhance driver protection and familiarity. This includes “hill hold,” which prevents the vehicle from rolling backward when sitting stationary on a hill, and “electric creep,” which allows the vehicle to slowly start moving from a stop when the driver’s foot is removed from the brake pedal to simulate a gasoline engine in gear. In addition, the Blue Bird custom chassis provides the best turn radius to-date maximizing vehicle maneuverability in tight urban settings.
“For nearly a century, Blue Bird has perfected its core capabilities of designing, engineering and manufacturing school buses from the ground up,” said Matthew Stevenson, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. “Now we will apply our world-class chassis-building expertise to expand our electric-powered product range to the commercial vehicle space, thereby, nearly doubling our total addressable market. Blue Bird’s unique and modular vehicle platform is an industry gamechanger for zero-emission mobility.”
Blue Bird teamed up with Lightning eMotors, a Colorado-based manufacturer of electric powertrains and complete zero-emission vehicle solutions, to build the prototype of the Class 5-6 custom chassis. Lightning eMotors drew from its broad EV experience based on nearly 250 zero-emission electric commercial vehicles in operation and over 1.5 million miles driven to-date.
“We are ecstatic that Blue Bird chose us to be their powertrain partner for their debut into the commercial chassis market,” said Tim Reeser, CEO of Lightning eMotors. “Blue Bird’s reputation for quality and safety is well deserved, and we believe they will disrupt the market. We are also excited about the innovation they are bringing to the school bus market and look forward to deepening our partnership going forward.”
Blue Bird is the only U.S.-owned and operated school bus manufacturer in the United States. The company plans to launch production of its Class 5-6 EV chassis in late 2023 at its manufacturing facility in Fort Valley, Ga.
Blue Bird will feature its latest low- and zero-emission vehicle technologies at ACT Expo. The company remains the proven clean transportation leader with more than 20,000 propane, natural gas, and electric-powered buses in operation today. ACT Expo takes place from May 9-12, 2022, at the Long Beach Convention Center in Southern California.