Blue Bird Unveils EV Platform for Class 5-6

May 10, 2022

Taking a leap from its long history in building school buses, Blue Bird Corporation unveiled a Class 5-6 electric vehicle chassis that will deliver a wide range of options for battery-electric vehicles, including last-mile delivery step vans, motorhomes, and other specialty vehicles.

The Blue Bird electric vehicle (EV) chassis’ modular design allows for several battery configurations from 70kWh to 225kWh, delivering ranges of up to 175 miles on a single charge. The battery packs take from one hour to 12 hours to fully charge, depending on the charging infrastructure utilized.

The chassis is available in three wheelbase options — 178-, 190-, and 208-inch — for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating up to 26,000 pounds. The use of lightweight materials and components helps maximize vehicle payload without diminishing vehicle safety.

The new EV chassis will also feature a number of standard safety features, 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 removes their foot from the brake pedal. The chassis also offers the best turn radius to-date to maximize vehicle maneuverability in tight urban settings, according to the manufacturer.

“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 Corporation. “Blue Bird’s unique and modular vehicle platform is an industry gamechanger for zero-emission mobility.”

Lightning eMotors to helped build the prototype of the new chassis, drawing from its broad experience based on nearly 250 zero-emission electric commercial vehicles in operation and more than 1.5 million real-world miles.

“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. “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 the EV chassis in late 2023 at its manufacturing facility in Fort Valley, Georgia.