LISLE, Ill. — The newest IC Bus models will be hitting the road soon as the company ramps up production of its gasoline school bus and takes its concept electric bus on tour.
Officials from IC Bus discussed those new fuel options, as well as propane and diesel model updates, in a recent interview with SBF.
IC Bus initially unveiled its gasoline-powered CE school bus in 2016. The Type C bus runs on a Power Solutions International (PSI) 8.8L V8 gasoline engine paired with an Allison transmission. The gasoline bus uses much of the same technology and spark-ignited engine architecture as IC Bus’ propane CE model.
Trish Reed, vice president and general manager of IC Bus, said that the company has already gotten a strong showing of orders for the gasoline CE.
“Receipts have exceeded our expectations,” Reed said.
IC Bus has released about 20 gasoline models in preproduction, with another 20 being built in mid-March and full production planned to begin next month at the company’s school bus manufacturing facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“We’ll just do a steady ramp build into April,” Reed said, adding that the official “job one” production is slated for mid-to-late April.
At the National Association for Pupil Transportation trade show in November, IC Bus introduced its concept electric school bus, dubbed the ChargE. The vehicle, expected to launch in 2019, was developed as part of the alliance between IC Bus parent company Navistar and Volkswagen Truck & Bus.
Now, IC Bus will take the ChargE on a demonstration tour on the West Coast starting later this month. That will include an appearance at the California Association of School Transportation Officials conference, which will be held March 24 to 26 in San Diego, and a ride-and-drive at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo, scheduled for April 30 to May 3 in Long Beach, California.
As for IC Bus’ more established alt-fuel model, the propane CE school bus, the company recently expanded its fuel tank options. The propane bus is now available with a 46-gallon, 68-gallon, or 90-gallon fuel tank.
Ryan Kauffman, vice president of sales for IC Bus, said that with the company’s propane and gasoline school buses, customers appreciate that they use the same PSI engine and an Allison transmission, and that they can both be serviced within the IC Bus dealer network.
“There’s a lot of energy around the propane and gasoline engines,” Kauffman said.
Another recent development from IC Bus is the launch of its updated RE Series Type D school bus, which is now powered by the Cummins L9 diesel engine.
Sudha Veerapaneni, Navistar’s product marketing director for buses, said that the L9 engine paired with an integrated cooler on the Allison 3000 transmission provides “less complexity and improved reliability,” and the new RE Series incorporates some carryover features from the CE Series. Those include the same type of diesel exhaust fluid tank, the same body controller, and a frame-mounted rollout battery tray for easier access to the batteries. Another new feature for the RE school bus is a direct drive cooling fan system.
“The engine-mounted clutch allows the gearbox to run only when the fan is engaged,” Veerapaneni said. “That means increased longevity … and good access to those components.”
Meanwhile, Reed said that the company’s school bus sales are up in the first quarter of 2018 compared to last year. She noted that an improving housing market has led to increased property tax revenue in many parts of the country, which has meant more money for school bus replacement.
Also, IC Bus has been working to inform customers about the VW Environmental Mitigation Trust, which will provide states with a total of nearly $3 billion for projects to cut nitrogen oxide from large vehicles, including school buses.
“That’s a huge opportunity for our dealers and customers to replace older school buses,” Reed said.