A project designed to retrofit diesel-powered school buses with electric batteries for two California school districts is progressing, with one district slated to soon receive its first converted bus.

Mark Plumb, manager of transportation and safety at Torrance Unified School District (USD), traveled to TransPower in Poway, California, on June 24 to see how the project is progressing. The firm, which specializes in medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicle technology, demonstrated to Plumb and other visitors the conversion process on the school buses for Torrance USD and Napa Valley USD.

The first of the six buses being converted as part of the project is now in the early stages of conversion; the engines have been replaced with electric motors, and the fuel tanks will soon be replaced with battery tanks. Joshua Goldman, vice president of business development for TransPower, explained the conversion process to the group.

Joshua Goldman, vice president of business development for TransPower, explains how the drive motor and automated manual transmission work in the converted buses. Photo by Mark Plumb

Joshua Goldman, vice president of business development for TransPower, explains how the drive motor and automated manual transmission work in the converted buses. Photo by Mark Plumb

“[The visit] gave us a good idea of how it all works,” Plumb told School Bus Fleet. “We were able to see the components and understand how it all fits together.”

A group of companies operating under a Clinton Global Initiative grant is working with the school districts to retrofit the buses and have them double as mobile generators during their downtime. The main goal of the project is to find out whether such a school bus can be profitable, as previously reported by Autoblog.

In addition to providing near zero-emissions transportation, the buses will also be able to store electricity in the batteries, enabling the districts to put that energy back into the grid and sell it, according to NBC 7.

Torrance USD expects to receive one of the two buses this September.

Meanwhile, the next step for him, Plumb said, is getting Torrance USD’s school bus facility ready to accommodate the buses once they arrive.

“There’s a lot of electrical work, installing the charge panels and there’s a fair amount of construction [needed], so that’s my focus right now,” he explained. “I’m trying to make sure everything gets done before we get busy again in September.”

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