School bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corporation unveiled a Class 5-6 electric vehicle platform at the 2022 Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo. The company is building on its nearly century-long expertise of school bus manufacturing to expand its zero-emission transportation solutions to the commercial vehicle market. Blue Bird’s flexible Class 5-6 chassis will enable a broad range of fully-electric vehicles, including last-mile delivery step vans, motorhomes, and other specialty vehicles.
Due to its modular design, the Blue Bird electric vehicle (EV) chassis allows for several battery configurations from 70 kWh to 225 kWh supporting a vehicle range of up to 175 miles on a single charge. The battery packs take between one and twelve hours to fully recharge depending on the charging infrastructure.
In addition, Blue Bird offers 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 utilizes lightweight materials and components for its innovative vehicle platform, thereby, maximizing vehicle payload without compromising on vehicle safety.
Blue Bird offers several safety features on its EV chassis not standard on comparable electric vehicles to enhance driver protection and familiarity. This includes “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, the Blue Bird custom chassis provides the best turn radius to-date maximizing vehicle maneuverability in tight urban settings.
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 broad EV experience based on nearly 250 zero-emission electric commercial vehicles in operation and more than 1.5 million miles driven to-date.
Blue Bird plans to launch production of its Class 5-6 EV chassis in late 2023 at its manufacturing facility in Fort Valley, Ga.