A yellow icon of American transport is looking to go green, with Daimler subsidiary Thomas Built Buses signaling a shift away from diesel-powered pupil-movers in favor of an electric variant. The Jouley electric school bus that was debuted at the National Association of Pupil Transportation in Ohio this week can carry up to 81 kids and is powered by a 160-kWh battery. This affords it a 160-km (100-mi) run on each charge, while additional battery packs can be added to stretch out that range.
Thomas Built Buses has been producing its iconic yellow buses since 1916 and is today the leading manufacturer of school buses in North America. Not to single them out, but that means a move toward electric motors on its part could make a sizable difference to the levels of nasty diesel fumes in and around schools. That's just as well considering scientists are continuing to uncover more alarming facts about such fumes.
One of the main culprits when it comes to diesel pollution is nitrogen oxide, a poisonous gas formed when the fuel burns at high temperatures. The gas reacts with volatile compounds in the atmosphere, creating the smog famously seen in cities like Beijing and Los Angeles.
This pollution can lead to respiratory problems, stroke, heart disease and cancer, and although already thought to be dire, a study earlier in the year found that emissions from diesel vehicles may have been underestimated by as much as 50 percent. The researchers estimated that excess nitrogen oxide is associated with 38,000 premature deaths in 2015, and that heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and buses were by far the biggest contributors.
All of this, is of course, a longwinded way of saying what we already know – that doing away with diesel where we can is a super idea. With a market share of 38.7 percent, it will take a long time for the Thomas Built Buses's electric buses to put a dent in the problem, but together with other electrified school buses in the works, like the eLion and SST-e, might form part of a greener pupil transport picture.
The company plans to begin series production off the electric buses in 2019.