No, an electric school bus isn't as exciting as an electric Porsche or Lotus, but in the grand scheme of things, it's probably a lot more important. Case in point – a fleet of such buses are scheduled to hit the road in California next year, with each vehicle saving its school district a claimed 16 gallons (60.5 L) of fuel per day, adding up to US$11,000 in fuel savings per year.
The battery-powered SST-e buses were created in a collaboration between school bus manufacturer Trans Tech Bus and Motiv Power Systems. Kings Canyon Unified School District, in the San Joaquin Valley, will be the recipient of the first vehicles off the line.
The SST-e is built around the existing Ford E450 truck chassis, utilizing Motiv's electric Powertrain Control System. That system is said to be compatible with a wide variety of chassis and battery types, meaning that few modifications are required to the stock chassis, and that better-performing batteries can be swapped in as technology advances.
Although little is available in the way of specs, the buses will have a range of 80 or 100 miles (129 or 161 km), depending on whether they're equipped with four or five battery packs – any one of those packs can be replaced without having to replace all the others. The batteries can be charged to 50 percent capacity in less than an hour, while a full charge takes eight hours. They utilize a 3-phase fast charging system that "requires minimal building modifications and no expensive charging stations."
The Type A bus can carry up to 32 students, or 24 students and one wheelchair. Thanks to a built-in telemetry system, the location of each bus can be monitored remotely, as can its maintenance needs and its driver's performance.