Electric School Buses From Motiv Power Coming To California


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


About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • Eco Logical

    Hey Steve, I like your opening paragraph, kids have been victimized by the fossil fuel industry. I wonder if people that drive diesels understand that Nitrogen Oxides and Sulphur Oxides emitted by diesels form Nitric Acid and Sulphuric Acid in kids’ lungs. I wonder if they know that the particulate matter (carbon fibers) lodge in kids’ lungs causing the same problem as Asbestos. I wonder if they know that kids get Asthma, Emphysema and other respiratory diseases from those diesel emissions. I wonder if they know that they are actually killing kids when they drive a diesel. If they do, they should be locked up! If they don’t, they should be educated, and then if they still insist on driving a diesel they should be locked up and throw away the key!

    • Steve Hanley

      Well, to be fair, the drivers often have little say in the matter. And the bus companies have to consider the bottom line when purchasing their rolling stock. Can you imagine if the bus budget suddenly doubled or tripled?

      How many parents do you think would be willing to pony up an extra thousand per kid per year to have them riding in electric vehicles? My guess is, not that many. When you realize that the grant for 13 buses was $7.5 million, that works out to a fair chunk of change for each one.

      Everybody is in favor of reducing the emissions their kids are exposed to — until they have to pay for it.

      • Eco Logical

        Yes, unfortunately you’re right, everything has a price, even the life of a child. But if you ask an average parent “What causes Asthma?” most wouldn’t know. That’s why it’s important for us (the people that understand the damage that’s being done by diesels) to inform average people so they can make an informed decision about the type of vehicle they buy and drive. For example, if the parents are paying more than $1K/year/kid for respiratory treatments, they’d actually save money by having their kids ride in an EV at $1K/kid/year extra cost.

        • Steve Hanley

          Leading by example is always a good approach. Talk the talk but also walk the walk.

  • New technology diesel school buses have near zero emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter and use ultra low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD).

    Diesel has long been the technology of choice for pupil transportation because of the safety/flammability characteristics of the fuel in an impact situation reduce risk of fire compared to gasoline, and their high reliability, durability and low maintenance costs that don’t detract funds from the classroom.

    High Cost of EV buses might defer other simple bus fleet upgrading and turnover to newer generation of diesel. The net result could be higher bus fleet emissions in the school districts, not lower.

    What if you could buy 26 new diesel buses instead of 13 EVs for the same amount of money? Is that helping more kids and communities get cleaner air or not?

    Sweeping accusations of health effects all attributed to diesel are unfair. All internal combustion engines emit fine particles, NOx and hydrocarbons- natural gas, diesel, propane, gasoline.

    BTW- diesel fuel had lower levels of sulfur than gasoline over the last 10 years, only recently were gasoline sulfur levels reduced to levels close to ULSD.

    • Michael Duckett

      Dude. If they gave a shit about student safety, school buses would have seat belts. They don’t use diesel because safety. They are cheaper over the long run. They don’t give a shit about pollution. If electric buses will be cheaper over 15 years, they will buy them.