Blue Bird opens electric school bus factory to build 5,000 buses per year

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Blue Bird has opened a new “Electric Vehicle Build-Up Center” on the grounds of its main manufacturing plant in Fort Valley, Georgia. The 40,000 square foot facility will help the company reach production of 5,000 electric school buses per year.

Blue Bird is headquartered in Georgia and has built school buses there for 91 years.

The new facility will assemble electric versions of Blue Bird’s “Vision” and “All American” model buses, carrying 77 and 84 passengers respectively. The Vision is a classic “Type C” bus, while the All American is a “Type D” bus with a flat front end. Both have a 155kWh battery and roughly 120 miles of range.

Blue Bird celebrated its grand opening with a short promotional video on its YouTube channel:

The company currently builds 4 electric school buses per day, but wants to increase that number to 20 per day. Electric buses currently make up 6% of Blue Bird’s total volume, and about 1,000 electric Blue Bird buses are in operation today.

But the company expects those numbers to go up fast, especially due to billions of dollars in incentives from the infrastructure plan passed under President Biden. These incentives make electric school buses a no-brainer (to the point they’re nearly free for some districts).

And new EPA emissions rules mean that about a third of school bus sales will be electric by 2027, and half by 2032.

As a result of these policies, Blue Bird thinks it will sell thousands of additional EV school buses, to the tune of about $1 billion in orders over the course of the next five years.

Georgia, the state where Blue Bird is headquartered, has seen a lot of manufacturing announcements as a result of new federal policies on electric vehicles. Several companies are opening new car and battery manufacturing facilities in the state, with Georgia becoming an important part of a new “battery belt” in the region, despite the state’s oft-indifference to necessary climate action.

This influx of green jobs stands to benefit Georgia and neighboring states (well, most of them anyway), as the Biden Administration attempts to onshore EV manufacturing with new policies in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. Manufacturing jobs are generally thought of as being particularly beneficial to an economy, and Blue Bird says that this facility will help it sustain 2,000 good paying jobs. Its workers voted to unionize just last week, in hopes to ensure that they get a fair share of the benefits of this growth in green jobs.

School buses are a particularly ripe area for electrification, as school bus duty cycles are amenable to electric powertrains. School buses drive short fixed routes on most days, have long periods of time in the middle of the day or overnight that they are parked and able to charge (or discharge to help the grid), and most importantly of all they don’t spew disgusting black soot into the lungs of their child occupants. As a result, studies have shown that electric school buses reduce sick days, improving student health and attendance.

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