Blue Bird unveiled the electric Class 5-6 custom chassis at the ACT Expo. Developed with Colorado-based Lightning eMotors, the chassis will enable a broad range of fully electric vehicles, including last-mile delivery step vans, motorhomes, and other specialty vehicles. - Photo: Lightning eMotors

Blue Bird unveiled the electric Class 5-6 custom chassis at the ACT Expo. Developed with Colorado-based Lightning eMotors, the chassis will enable a broad range of fully electric vehicles, including last-mile delivery step vans, motorhomes, and other specialty vehicles.

Photo: Lightning eMotors

School bus manufacturer Blue Bird unveiled a new electric platform for Class 5-6 vehicles at the 2022 Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo on May 10. The announcement marks the company's entry into a new vehicle market.

Blue Bird used its expertise in school bus manufacturing to expand its zero-emission transportation solutions for commercial vehicles. According to the company, Blue Bird's new chassis will enable a broad range of fully electric vehicles, including last-mile delivery step vans, motorhomes, and other specialty vehicles.

With a modular design, the Blue Bird electric vehicle 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 12 hours to fully recharge, depending on the charging infrastructure.

Blue Bird's ACT Expo prototype was built with the help of Lightning eMotors. Blue Bird plans to launch production of its Class 5-6 EV chassis in late 2023. - Photo: Jim Park

Blue Bird's ACT Expo prototype was built with the help of Lightning eMotors. Blue Bird plans to launch production of its Class 5-6 EV chassis in late 2023.

Photo: Jim Park

In addition, Blue Bird will offer 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 uses lightweight materials and components for its vehicle platform, maximizing vehicle payload without compromising on vehicle safety, according to the announcement.

Blue Bird offers several safety features on its EV chassis, including “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, Blue Bird said the custom chassis provides the best turning radius to maximize vehicle maneuverability in tight urban settings.

The unveiling of Blue Bird's new EV chassis drew a crowd. - Photo: GNA/ACT Expo

The unveiling of Blue Bird's new EV chassis drew a crowd.

Photo: GNA/ACT Expo

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 own 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 plans to launch production of its Class 5-6 EV chassis in late 2023 at its manufacturing facility in Fort Valley, Georgia.

"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. “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 game-changer for zero-emission mobility.”

Originally posted on Fleet Forward

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