Blue Bird teams with Highland on electric school bus fleet

By Becky Schultz22 December 2022

Hardin County Community Unit School District #1 in Illinois ordered 12 Blue Bird electric school buses through Highland Electric Fleets. (Photo: Blue Bird)

Electric and low-emission school bus provider Blue Bird Corp. announced it has teamed with Highland Electric Fleets to supply Hardin County Community Unit School District #1 (CUSD #1) in Illinois with clean electric school buses. The school district ordered 12 Blue Bird Type C electric school buses through Highland.

The zero-emission school buses are partially funded by a $4.74 million grant through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2022 Clean School Bus Rebate Program. The program is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides $5 billion over five years to promote clean school bus transportation, as well as assist in establishing the required clean energy charging infrastructure.

Highland’s fleet electrification-as-a-service offering is also designed to allow districts and third-party fleet managers to avoid much of the upfront costs and complexity of electrification, accelerating the adoption of clean student transportation.

“Highland makes it as simple and affordable as possible for school districts and fleet managers to upgrade to two or 300 electric buses today,” said Duncan McIntyre, CEO of Highland Electric Fleets. “Electric school buses provide clean, quiet and reliable student transportation and also serve as energy assets in the community, contributing to grid reliability and resiliency during extreme weather events. We are excited to work with Blue Bird to help Hardin CUSD #1 and other Illinois schools electrify their fleets.”

Blue Bird electric buses come standard with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capability, enabling Highland to coordinate with local utility companies to manage vehicle charging and return stored energy back to the grid as needed. V2G programs help balance demands on the grid, improve grid resiliency and lower the overall cost of electric school bus fleets for school districts.

“Many school districts across America are committed to reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions and improving student health by shifting to clean electric school buses. However, the upfront purchase price of electric school buses often represents a barrier to entry,” said Britton Smith, senior vice president of electrification and chief strategy officer of Blue Bird Corp. “We are proud to collaborate with Highland Electric Fleets and to jointly serve Hardin County CUSD #1. It is our goal to reduce the total cost of ownership of electric school bus fleets to be on par with or below the investment needed for current diesel fleets.”

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