Is there anything dumber than loading our children aboard diesel powered buses so they go to and from school in a haze of diesel exhaust fumes and particulates? Everyone except Rush Limbaugh knows breathing in diesel exhaust is bad for one’s health, yet every day millions of school children are sentenced to respiratory disease and a potentially shorter life span because of how they get to school and back. Motiv Power Systems has a better way — electric school buses that eliminate diesel engines entirely.

Electric school buses from Motiv Powser

Motiv Power is not in the business of making supercars or luxo-barges for bigwigs. Its business is focused on large commercial vehicles — everything from school buses to shuttle buses, delivery trucks, work trucks, and even Class 8 trash trucks. At the start of this school year, 13 electric buses with Motiv Power battery electric powertrains and manufactured by Trans Tech will begin serving the Elk Grove Unified School District and Twin Rivers Unified School District in the Sacramento area.

“As a father of three small children, it excites me that improving air quality surrounding school transportation is increasingly within reach for many fleets,” said Motiv Power Systems CEO Jim Castelaz. “The trend of transitioning from diesel to zero emission busing is the future, and these 13 buses will be proof of that. We’re proud to be working with the Sacramento City school district and hope that more school districts throughout the country follow this movement.”

The experimental program was made possible by a $7.5M grant from the California Air Resources Board. This is the board’s largest school bus grant to date and was the only application approved of all those submitted to the state grant program this year. “The Sacramento Regional School Bus Deployment Project is a great example of how our climate policies are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs here in California,” said Senator Bob Wieckowski, the chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

His district includes the City of Hayward where Motiv Power Systems manufactures its powertrains. “Motiv Power Systems all-electric powertrain kits are increasing the number of students who are transported in zero emission vehicles. This is especially beneficial to disadvantaged communities where poor air quality has severe health impacts for many residents. This grant puts us on the road to a cleaner California.”

Motiv Power Systems does not use lithium ion batteries for its electric bus program. According to Rose Begonia, a spokesperson for the company, “The chemistry that Motiv uses for its school bus batteries is sodium nickel. It’s not a lithium family chemistry. It’s actually based on just sodium and chlorine — so it’s table salt, sodium chloride — and nickel.

“The sodium nickel batteries are also thermally managed, so they don’t derate in very hot weather or very cold weather. With lithium ion batteries, unless they are thermally managed, which is uncommon in the bus and truck and heavy vehicle industry, they derate pretty substantially in cold weather.” They do not subject the children on board the buses to the risk of fire associated with lithium ion batteries in some circumstances.

Motiv Power says its electric buses reduce operating expenses for fuel by as much as 85% and cut maintenance costs by two thirds. That means the return on investment for school bus operators is only six years. Four Motiv Power electric buses are currently in operation in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Two more Type C electric buses from Creative Bus Sales are on their way to Los Angeles, where there performance will be evaluated with an eye toward adding more electric buses to the city’s school bus fleet in the future.

Source: Motiv Power Systems