Cummins and Blue Bird Join Forces to Electrify California’s School Bus Fleets

August 31, 2019 by Paul Shepard

California is leading the way in the electrification of school bus fleets. Hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and subsidies have been or will be made available to districts that wish to add electric buses to their fleets.

However, until recently, districts had limited options in electric bus providers and even fewer for localized service and support of electric buses. Now, Blue Bird Corporation, a school bus manufacturer that focuses on alternatively-fueled technologies, and Cummins, a global power leader, are ushering in the school year by celebrating their partnership that provides California schools with nearly 200 years of experience supporting customers and more than 30 years of electric drivetrain experience.

Nearly 100 electric school buses powered by a Cummins fully electric drivetrain have been ordered to date from Blue Bird Corporation. The overwhelming majority of the bus orders are from California school districts.

Blue Bird has been working with electric technology in school buses since 1994, and recently secured a strong partnership with the Cummins Electrified Power business segment. Cummins produces the all-electric drivetrains that power Blue Bird's Electric Vision and Electric All American buses. Cummins has committed to investing $500 million in electrification over three years to bring quality, dependable, fully-electric and hybrid solutions to market across a wide range of applications.

"The amount of interest has been outstanding; people are very excited about a 100 percent electric-powered school bus," said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. "The nation is increasingly interested in electric vehicle transportation in general, and we anticipate rapid growth of electric school buses as more districts are educated on the zero-emission and low-maintenance benefits they bring to their local communities."

The Blue Bird Electric bus delivers abundant benefits to school districts. The Cummins PowerDrive equipped buses produce zero emissions, which not only improves air quality, but can reduce energy costs. For many districts, fuel is the second highest expense in their school bus operations, behind labor. There are also maintenance costs savings to be gained with the Blue Bird Electric bus, due to fewer parts. The buses are capable of up to 120 miles of range and can be recharged in approximately 8 hours using a standard SAE J1772 Level 2 charger, making overnight charging convenient.

"Cummins and Blue Bird are committed to supporting our California-based customers in ensuring that we are safely transporting our children and improving air quality for our communities," said Julie Furber, vice president of electrified power at Cummins Inc. "Schools can count on Cummins to deliver the same level of support and service network for these electric buses that we've always delivered through our 13 wholly-owned branch locations and approximately 200 service technicians in California."

Of the buses ordered, many will be deployed this year, with the remaining being delivered in 2020.