If Ford manages to corner this section of the market, it could be in for a major windfall.
The Ford E-Transit is already proving to be a very prudent project to have invested in for the Blue Oval, claiming the title of America's best-selling electric van, but now the Dearborn-based automaker is increasing the vehicle's appeal by introducing a school bus version. The news comes via Ford Pro's global chief marketing and experience officer, Wanda Young, who revealed the addition on Twitter, showing the E-Transit school bus on its stand at NTEA Work Truck Week in Indianapolis, Indiana. With this, Ford becomes the first full-line automaker to offer a Type A school bus package on an electric powertrain. That could prove to be a highly beneficial move.
Ford has not yet publicized when the school bus package will be launched, what it will sell for, or how much range it could offer. But it does claim that the E-Transit can save as much as 57% in CO2 emissions compared to similar gas-powered vans, which is why the United States Postal Service ordered a whole load of them, 9,250 to be exact.
Clearly, the E-Transit can already be considered a success, but the decision to offer a school bus package before anybody else could extend the electric van's lead over rivals (there are other electric school bus offerings, but not of the same type). Schools will be actively seeking packages like this now, as districts can get as much as $375,000 to replace old diesel-powered models with all-electric versions. And then there's the matter of the Inflation Reduction Act, which makes an EV switch all the more attractive.
Under the IRA, school districts can avail themselves of a further $20,000 in credits for EV chargers, making the investment in infrastructure much easier to swallow. Now is an especially good time for the school bus package to be announced for yet another reason.
In some areas, school districts are being required to replace old buses with EVs soon. New York wants the entire fleet to be electric by 2035, while Boston expects to revitalize its fleet with electric vehicles in 2030. This puts Ford in a great position.
Ford can attract customers that rivals without an alternative school bus package cannot. And on the combustion side of things, the sale of more electric vehicles, particularly in fleet volumes, will mean that vehicles like the Mustang can continue to be unelectrified for a long time to come. CEO Jim Farley said last year that electric products like the Mustang Mach-E "allowed this car [the V8 Mustang] to happen," adding that "competitors are buying credits for emissions, and they can't come out with this kind of vehicle."
According to the New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA), there are currently more than 480,000 yellow school buses across America, with these transporting an estimated 26 million students to and from school. These buses travel around 12,000 miles per year, which amounts to almost 6 billion miles across the entire fleet. The NYSBCA also notes that "school buses are the largest mass transit program in the US," providing roughly 10 billion student trips a year, compared to transit buses that only provide around 5.2 billion unlinked passenger trips a year.
Each school bus uses 1,700 gallons of fuel a year, which works out to 816 million gallons across the fleet. Remove those fuel costs, as well as most servicing costs, and an electric school transit system could save fortunes annually.
School buses are a big contributor to carbon emissions, and those particulates pose a health risk to kids. Electric school buses need not be engaging to drive, have massive range, or provide otherworldly acceleration. In our mind, there is no obvious drawback to electrifying the nation's school buses.
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