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Blue Bird Awarded $4.4 Million to Develop Electric School Bus

Find original article here.

WASHINGTON, DC (Jan 27, 2017) — In December of 2016, the Department of Energy announced that they would be awarding $15M to organizations in an effort to accelerate the adoption of advanced and alternative fuel vehicles. Blue Bird Corporation, a bus manufacturer located in Fort Valley, GA, was presented the largest amount at $4.4M in order to develop a zero-emissions, 100% V2G electric school bus.


“As the leader in alternative fuel bus solutions, the addition of an electric school bus rounds out our portfolio,” says Phil Horlock, President and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. “Thanks to this award from the Department of Energy, we will be able to pursue the development of this technology based on our many years of research. As we celebrate our 90th anniversary in 2017, the timing of this grant is impeccable!”


One of the stipulations of the award is that the bus will be an affordable, ‘low cost’ electric bus solution. Additionally, Blue Bird is looking to implement technology, known as V2G, that will allow the bus to put electricity back into the grid – which may help bring much-needed funds to school districts. “This initiative will provide resources to explore alternative fuels for school transportation while sending energy back to the grid,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. “The development of a low-cost electric school bus is an investment that could save state resources in the long term. We are excited to see Blue Bird develop this new technology here in Georgia.”


“Blue Bird has a solid reputation and the company has been an asset to Georgia’s economy,” said U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson. “I applaud the decision by the Department of Energy and other entities to award this funding to a company that continues to make a positive impact.”


However, Blue Bird is not unfamiliar with this technology. “We were first to market with an electric school bus in 1994,” explained Dennis Whitaker, Vice President of Product Development for Blue Bird. “Since then, we have been closely monitoring this technology, and have found that recent battery management advances have made this project viable. We should see our first new Blue Bird electric school bus in 2019.”


As a zero-emissions vehicle, this electric bus will be able to take away thousands of pounds of particulate matter from the air, making a positive impact on the environment, and the children these buses transport. “I am thrilled that Blue Bird has been awarded this grant by the Department of Energy,” said U.S. Congressman Sanford Bishop, representative of Middle and Southwest Georgia. “Not only has Blue Bird contributed to the local community for over 90 years by providing jobs, but it has also produced a multitude of ‘green’ vehicles in recent years. I am excited to see they are now able to produce even more solutions that positively impact the environment and future generations of bus riders.”


According to Michael Simon, President and CEO of TransPower, this electric bus solution could also create additional jobs throughout the US. “Once these electric buses go into production, there is a huge potential for job growth,” said Simon. “Supplying electric drive components for say, 500 buses a year, would have the potential to create up to 250 new jobs in California.”


Kevin Matthews, Managing Director for National Strategies, whose firm developed the application and will serve as project manager, stated that; “This project will take us far down the road to deploying and operating a Zero Emission School Bus that is cost effective for school district across the United States. We thank DoE for this award, and applaud Blue Bird’s leadership in this arena.”


Combined with matching funding from other public and private entities in California, the total project funding will be over $9M and result in an eight bus demonstration fleet deployed in California by 2019.


About Blue Bird Corporation: Blue Bird (Nasdaq: BLBD) is the leading independent designer and manufacturer of school buses, with more than 550,000 buses sold since its formation in 1927 and approximately 180,000 buses in operation today. Blue Bird’s longevity and reputation in the school bus industry have made it an iconic American brand. Blue Bird distinguishes itself from its principal competitors by its singular focus on the design, engineering, manufacture and sale of school buses and related parts. As the only manufacturer of chassis and body production specifically designed for school bus applications, Blue Bird is recognized as an industry leader for school bus innovation, safety, product quality/reliability/durability, operating costs and drivability. In addition, Blue Bird is the market leader in alternative fuel applications with its propane-powered and compressed natural gas-powered school buses. Blue Bird manufactures school buses at two facilities in Fort Valley, Georgia. Its Micro Bird joint venture operates a manufacturing facility in Drummondville, Quebec, Canada. Service and after-market parts are distributed from Blue Bird’s parts distribution center located in Delaware, Ohio. For more information on Blue Bird’s complete line of buses, visit www.blue-bird.com.

Energy Department Invests Millions to Speed Alt-Fuel Development

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $18 million in support of five projects for research, development and demonstration of new plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) and direct-injection propane engine technologies, as well as community-based projects to accelerate the adoption of light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that operate on fuels such as biodiesel, electricity, E85, hydrogen, natural gas and propane.

Public investment in advanced, energy-efficient transportation technologies and systems will improve the nation’s energy security, support energy independence, reduce transportation emissions and strengthen U.S. economic competiveness.

According to the DOE, the following selected projects will accelerate the development and adoption of alternative fuel technologies and support pioneering deployments of market-ready vehicles and alternative fuels.

Odyne Systems LLC (Pewaukee, Wis.) will receive $2.9 million to develop and demonstrate plug-in hybrid work trucks (Class 7) that reduce fuel consumption by more than 50% and eliminate fuel consumption during stationary operations.

Blue Bird Body Co. (Fort Valley, Ga.) will receive $4.9 million to develop and demonstrate a battery-powered electric school bus that improves propulsion energy efficiency by 20%-30% and that can connect to the electric grid (vehicle-to-grid).

Blossman Services (Swannanoa, N.C.) will receive $2 million to develop a 4.3L propane direct injection engine and emission control system that will be demonstrated on a package delivery vehicle. Direct injection engine technology offers improved performance and saves fuel.

PacifiCorp (Portland, Ore.) will receive $3.9 million to accelerate PEV adoption by developing electric highway corridors along I-15, I-80, I-70, and I-84 in the states of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.

Gas Technology Institute (Des Plaines, Ill.) will receive $4.9 million to deploy multi-fuel stations (including electric vehicle charging stations, compressed natural gas, biofuels and propane stations) and alternative fuel vehicles (including electric drive) along I-94 from Port Huron, Mich., to the North Dakota border.

Ford Details New Electrified Vehicles, Expands EV Plant

by NGT News 

Ford has confirmed seven of the 13 new electrified vehicles (EVs) it plans to introduce in the next five years, including hybrid versions of the F-150 pickup and Mustang in the U.S.; a plug-in hybrid Transit Custom van in Europe; and a fully electric SUV with an expected range of at least 300 miles for customers globally.

The automaker also announced that it is canceling plans for a new $1.6 billion plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and is investing $700 million in the expansion of the Flat Rock, Mich., plant instead. The Flat Rock Assembly Plant will build high-tech autonomous vehicles and EVs, along with the Mustang and Lincoln Continental. As reported, the expansion will create 700 direct new jobs.

These efforts are part of a $4.5 billion investment in EVs by 2020, offering customers greater fuel efficiency and power across Ford’s global vehicle lineup.

“As more and more consumers around the world become interested in electrified vehicles, Ford is committed to being a leader in providing consumers with a broad range of electrified vehicles, services and solutions that make people’s lives better,” says Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “Our investments and expanding lineup reflect our view that global offerings of electrified vehicles will exceed gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 15 years.”

Ford says it is focusing its EV plan on its strengths – electrifying its most popular, high-volume commercial vehicles, trucks, SUVs and performance vehicles to make them “even more capable, productive and fun to drive.”

In an announcement released today, Ford says that seven of the 13 new EVs to be introduced in the coming years would include the following:

  • An all-new fully electric small SUV, coming by 2020, engineered to deliver an estimated range of at least 300 miles, to be built at the Flat Rock plant and sold in North America, Europe and Asia;
  • A high-volume autonomous vehicle designed for commercial ride hailing or ride sharing, starting in North America. The hybrid vehicle will debut in 2021 and will be built at the Flat Rock plant;
  • A hybrid version of the F-150 pickup available by 2020 and sold in North America and the Middle East. The F-150 Hybrid, built at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant, will offer powerful towing and payload capacity and operate as a mobile generator;
  • A hybrid version of the Mustang that will deliver V8 power and even more low-end torque. The Mustang Hybrid, built at the Flat Rock Plant, debuts in 2020 and will be available in North America to start;
  • A Transit Custom plug-in hybrid available in 2019 in Europe engineered to help reduce operating costs in even the most congested streets; and
  • Two new, pursuit-rated hybrid police vehicles, one of which will be built in Chicago, and both will be upfitted with their police gear at Ford’s dedicated police vehicle modification center in Chicago.

In addition, Ford has announced that its global utility lineup will be the company’s first hybrids powered by EcoBoost rather than naturally aspirated engines, improving performance and fuel economy.

The company also plans to be as aggressive in developing global EV services and solutions. These include EV fleet management, route planning and telematics solutions.

“Innovative services can be as important to customers as the electrified vehicles themselves,” says Hau Thai-Tang, group vice president of purchasing. “We are investing in solutions to help private customers, as well as commercial fleet owners, seamlessly incorporate these new vehicles and technologies into their lives.”

In addition, in New York and several major U.S. cities, Ford is testing a fleet of 20 Transit Connect hybrid taxi and van prototypes in demanding traffic conditions.

These Transit Connects build on the success of the Ford Escape Hybrid – which the company says was the world’s first hybrid SUV and the first North American-built hybrid. Many Escape Hybrid taxis are still on the road, moving passengers for more than 350,000 miles each and still using their original batteries.

For the full release, click here.

Understanding Fuel Economy Labels and Testing for Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Last month we learned about how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines and reports conventional light-duty vehicle fuel economy ratings. While alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) fuel economy testing is largely similar to that of conventional fuels, the EPA makes some adjustments to account for different vehicle technology and fuel energy content. By tailoring AFV fuel economy testing and reporting, the EPA is able to provide apples-to-apples comparisons and allow consumers to make informed decisions.

All-Electric Vehicles

What’s Reported:The fuel economy label for all-electric vehicles (EVs) includes all of the same information as that listed for gasoline vehicles (fuel economy, fuel cost savings, annual fuel cost, and emissions). However, EV labels list fuel economy using miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent (MPGe), sometimes referred to as miles per gasoline gallon equivalent (MPGGE). MPGe represents the number of miles a vehicle can go using a quantity of fuel with the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline. MPGe is a useful way to compare gasoline vehicles with vehicles that use fuel not dispensed in gallons. EV labels also include the following information:

Vehicle Charge Time: Indicates how long it takes to charge a fully discharged battery using Level 2, 240-volt electric vehicle supply equipment.
Driving Range: Estimates the approximate number of miles that a vehicle can travel in combined city and highway driving before the battery must be recharged.
Fuel Consumption Rate: Shows how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity an EV would use to travel 100 miles. Like gallons per 100 miles, the kWh per 100 miles relates directly to the amount of fuel used. It is an estimated rate of consumption rather than economy (measured in miles per gallon [MPG] or MPGe), which allows for more accurate energy usage comparisons between vehicles.

What’s Tested: To test EV fuel economy, the vehicle battery is fully charged and the vehicle is parked overnight. The next day, the vehicle is tested over successive city cycles until the battery is depleted. The battery is then recharged and the energy consumption of the vehicle is determined by dividing the kWh of energy needed to recharge the battery by the miles traveled by the vehicle. MPGe is based on this figure. The process is repeated for highway driving cycles, and the combined city and highway fuel consumption, and MPGe, is based on the standard ratio of 55% city and 45% highway driving.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

What’s Reported: Like EVs, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) fuel economy labels include fuel cost savings, annual fuel cost, and emissions information. For PHEVs that can use either electricity or gasoline (but only one fuel at a time), also known as non-blended or series PHEVs, labels include information for the fuel economy of both fuel modes. The electricity information is identical to that of EVs, listing charge time, fuel economy in MPGe, and fuel consumption rate in kWh per 100 miles. The gasoline information provides fuel economy in MPG and fuel consumption information in gallons per 100 miles. PHEV fuel economy labels also include electricity only, gasoline only, and combined electricity and gasoline driving range estimates. For PHEVs that use electricity and gasoline at the same time, also known as blended or parallel PHEVs, fuel economy labels reflect the fuel economy, fuel consumption, and range of the vehicle when it uses its standard electricity and gasoline mix.

What’s Tested: Because series PHEVs can use either electricity or gasoline, the EPA determines a vehicle’s fuel economy and fuel consumption based both on its use of only electricity and only gasoline. To determine a PHEV’s electric fuel economy, the EPA issues testing methodology nearly identical to that of EVs. If the gasoline engine is required to complete the test cycle, the EPA methodology uses both the electric energy consumption and the gasoline consumption to calculate the MPGe values for the electric operation only. Vehicle testing for the gasoline operation of the vehicle is similar to any other conventional hybrid electric vehicle. Parallel PHEVs are tested using their standard mix of electricity and gasoline.

Other Alternative Fuels

What’s Reported: The EPA also requires fuel economy information for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vehicles that use alternative fuels. This includes dedicated natural gas, propane, and hydrogen vehicles, as well as bi-fuel vehicles, such as bi-fuel natural gas, propane, and flexible fuel vehicles (vehicles that may use 51%-83% ethanol-gasoline blends). Note that the EPA does not require fuel economy testing of vehicles converted to run alternative fuels after they are purchased. While the EPA does not list fuel economy information for vehicles that use biodiesel, all diesel vehicles may use fuel blends of up to 5% biodiesel. These vehicles achieve fuel economy very similar to conventional diesel.

For vehicles that use exclusively alternative fuels (e.g., natural gas or hydrogen), the EPA lists fuel economy in MPGe in order to accurately reflect the fuel’s energy content and make easy comparisons with conventional fuel vehicles. Vehicles that can use either alternative fuels or conventional fuel, such as bi-fuel natural gas, bi-fuel propane, and flexible fuel vehicles, have fuel economy, fuel consumption, and range estimates for both the alternative and conventional fuel listed on their fuel economy labels. Fuel economy for alternative fuel use in bi-fuel and flexible fuel vehicles is listed in MPGe, while fuel economy for conventional fuel use is listed in MPG.

What’s Tested: For vehicles that run exclusively on alternative fuels, fuel economy testing methods are similar to those of conventional vehicles. For bi-fuel and flexible fuel vehicles, the vehicle fuel economy is tested as it runs exclusively on each fuel, similar to PHEVs.

For more information about AFV fuel economy, see the FuelEconomy.gov website and select from the Advanced Cars & Fuels menu. Also, view the Fuel Economy Toolkit.

Renewable Fuels Announcement Strengthens Energy Security

From National Biodiesel Board

The biodiesel industry recently welcomed the release of new standards to support American jobs and energy security. The group applauded the Administration for working to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels by raising biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“The real winners with this announcement are American consumers who will now have access to even more cleaner burning, advanced biofuel,” said NBB CEO Donnell Rehagen. “These benefits extend far beyond the biodiesel industry, supporting high paying jobs and clean air across the nation. Though we are poised to top these numbers this year, growth in advanced biofuels still sends positive signals to the marketplace.”

Under the new RFS rule, Biomass-Based Diesel standards would move to 2.1 billion gallons in 2018 up from 2 billion gallons in 2017. The Biomass-Based Diesel category – a diesel subset of the overall Advanced Biofuel category – is made up of biodiesel and renewable diesel, another diesel alternative made from the same feedstocks using a different technology.

Additionally, the new RFS rule would move Advanced Biofuels to 4.28 billion gallons in 2017 up from 3.61 billion gallons in 2016 with Biomass-Based Diesel continuing to fill a large portion of the Advanced Program. The new standards reflect modest growth but remain below the more than 2.6 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable hydrocarbon diesel expected in 2016.

The RFS – a bipartisan policy passed in 2005 and signed into law by President George W. Bush – requires increasing volumes of renewable fuels to be blended into the U.S. fuel stream. The law is divided into two broad categories: Conventional Biofuels, which must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent, and Advanced Biofuels, which must have a 50 percent reduction. Biodiesel is the first Advanced Biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide and has made up the vast majority of Advanced Biofuel production under the RFS to date.

DOE Clean Cities National Fleet Partners Make Gains

Our National Clean Fleets Partnership (NCFP) member fleets have had a busy few months.  We update the partner pages on the NCFP webpage as public announcements regarding fleet expansions and other newsworthy events occur.  If you’re ever wondering what’s going on with a particular partner, their partner profile page is a great place to start.  Here’s a brief summary of some of the latest partner news items:

  • FedEx Freight has purchased more than 100 CNG tractors and has installed a CNG fueling station to serve the new CNG fleet at their Oklahoma City Service Center.  The fueling station is estimated to dispense approximately 2.5 million GGEs of CNG per year.
  • Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, reached a major milestone in August when its CNG truck fleet logged more than 100 million miles.  Their CNG fleet has more than 500 vehicles and represents more than 35% of the company’s long-haul inventory.
  • Republic Services continues to unveil new CNG fueling stations across the country with its most recent station opening in Long Beach, CA.  The Republic Services division in Long Beach currently operates 147 CNG refuse collection trucks.
  • Ryder will be providing CNG heavy-duty vehicles to Postal Fleet Services, Inc. to support mail delivery operations in Orlando, FL; Lafayette, LA; Jackson, MS; and La Vergne, TN.  This announcement came only days before Ryder announced that its nationwide fleet of natural gas vehicles has surpassed 100 million miles of operations.
  • UPS announced in August that it achieved its goal of driving 1 billion miles (the equivalent of well over 4,000 trips to the moon!) in its alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet one year earlier than planned.  UPS has more than 7,200 vehicles in its rolling laboratory and about 12% of the fuel previously used by UPS’s ground fleet is now being replaced by alternative fuels.  And their alternative fuel fleet continues to grow.  UPS announced plans in October to add 200 new hybrid electric delivery trucks to its fleets in Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida beginning in January 2017.