Battery Systems

Accelera and Blue Bird unveil next-generation electric school bus

Accelera's next generation PowerDrive 7000 is now in production.

Accelera™ by Cummins, the zero-emissions business segment of Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI), and Blue Bird Corporation (Nasdaq: BLBD), the leader in electric and low-emission school buses, recently premiered the next-generation Vision electric school bus at STN Expo West in Reno, Nevada, a leading student transportation industry and technology event in North America.

The next-generation electric school bus features the Accelera™ PowerDrive 7000, the newest version of its electric powertrain system. The upgraded system provides superior performance and is equipped with a next-gen battery that has a capacity of 196kWh – a 25 percent increase from the previous model. With this updated battery technology, these electric school buses can now travel up to 130 miles on a single charge.

Vision Electric School Bus - Blue Bird

Blue Bird's next-generation Vision electric school bus, which features the Accelera PowerDrive 7000, on display at STN Expo West 2023 in Reno, Nevada. Photo credit: Blue Bird.

"Accelera's partnership with Blue Bird is in its fifth year, and together we are defining a new era of excellence in technology innovation and service support,” said Brian Wilson, General Manager of Electrified Components at Accelera. "Continuous improvement is in our DNA and we are driven to provide safe, efficient and sustainable electric school buses across North America by offering tailored solutions that meet the unique needs of our customers while raising the bar on expectations for BEVs." 

Accelera and Blue Bird have enhanced their assembly process for this new generation of electric school buses, resulting in better build quality and quicker lead times. Their goal of deploying a fleet of 1,000 electric school buses in North America within 12 to 18 months remains on track. The partnership between Accelera and Blue Bird has already resulted in successful school bus adoption in snowy Colorado and sunny California, where school districts have taken advantage of funding opportunities to electrify their fleets for quieter, cleaner and more comfortable rides. 

“Over the past century, Blue Bird has emerged as an iconic company at the forefront of technology advancement and innovation in the school bus industry,” said Britton Smith, president of Blue Bird Corporation, which operates nearly 1,000 electric school buses in North America today. “With our next-generation Vision electric school bus, we continue to take clean student transportation to the next performance level and provide superior, zero-emission buses to school districts across North America. Blue Bird is ever evolving.”

Accelera’s next-generation PowerDrive 7000 system features several significant enhancements, including more compact and lighter batteries, which improve efficiency and allow Blue Bird to increase the seating capacity of the Vision electric bus from 72 to 77 passengers. The batteries are equipped with internal insulation, which helps minimize heat loss within the energy storage system. Additionally, the new PowerDrive 7000 has simplified architecture with fewer system components and optimized software, improving the vehicle’s energy distribution and reliability while reducing maintenance.