Blue Bird is Thawing Out the Effects of Cold Weather on Electric Buses

The thermal management system is a critical component of electric bus technology that maintains an optimal temperature for the bus’s propulsion batteries and electric motor system.

Blue Bird is on a mission to equip school districts nationwide with zero-emissions electric school buses, including school districts in colder climates. Our electric buses are outfitted with advanced thermal management systems that allow drivers and students to conquer their routes no matter how low temperatures may drop or how high altitudes may be.

What Is Thermal Management for Electric Buses?

The thermal management system is a critical component of electric bus technology that maintains an optimal temperature for the bus’s propulsion batteries and electric motor system. It ensures your bus will perform well, regardless of external temperature conditions.

Not only do thermal management systems protect the electric components from overheating, but they also protect the vehicle from performing poorly in the cold. Electric vehicles are most efficient when temperatures are neutral since cooler or warmer temperatures can negatively affect the battery pack, power electronic systems, and vehicle motor. Optimal conditions allow the battery to maintain its health, charge, and capacity.

The ideal operating temperature for electric, battery-powered vehicles is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that colder temperatures will negatively affect this technology if there are no mitigation systems in place.

Blue Bird’s thermal management system minimizes the negative performance impact of cold weather conditions to keep our electric buses operating as efficiently as possible.

How Cold Weather Can Affect Electric Buses

The primary impacts on electric buses related to cold-weather conditions are vehicle range and charging.

Without strong thermal management technology, your electric bus could see a significant reduction in range or experience much longer charge times.

Why is this?

Reduced Driving Range

Your driving range is impacted by the energy draw on your propulsion batteries. The more draw from components powered by the batteries, the less energy remaining to move the bus down the road. A properly designed thermal management system will maintain the most efficient battery temperature while not using excessive energy to perform this task. In addition, because the thermal management system also provides the heat to maintain a warm cabin for occupants, it will also excessively drain the battery if not designed effectively.

Cold Weather Charging

Lithium-ion batteries need to reach the proper temperature before they will begin to take a charge. Many customers are not aware that these batteries will not charge below 32 degrees F, and the charge times are significantly increased until the battery reaches a temperature closer to 70 degrees F. A properly designed thermal management system will implore a strategy to maintain proper battery temperatures to allow charging to occur without significantly impacting charge times.

Blue Bird is Committed to Advanced Thermal Management for All Our Electric Buses

At Blue Bird, all our electric buses feature an advanced thermal management system to ensure our drivers and student passengers can travel the distance in any climate while maintaining cabin temperature to keep them warm. We are on the 3rd generation of our thermal management system as we continue to make improvements in efficiency and performance.

One of our newer improvements is the addition of a feature called pre-conditioning. This enhanced feature allows the cabin to be pre-heated while still plugged into the charger. By using shore power to warm the cabin instead of battery power, the bus can depart on the route with a warm cabin and a fully charged battery.

Our electric bus models include:

How Blue Bird Served West Grand School District in Colorado

In 2021, West Grand School District became the first in Colorado to adopt a zero-emissions Rear Engine Electric school bus. The district chose Blue Bird’s Type D All American RE electric bus because it features an advanced, redesigned thermal management system that delivers:

  • Outstanding performance
  • Higher efficiency
  • Less energy waste

Blue Bird’s enhanced thermal management technology ensures battery protection so each bus can operate at ideal temperatures, even in Colorado’s climate.

According to Superintendent Dr. Darrin Peppard, “West Grand School District is proving that a rural school district can make a big impact on the future of school bus transportation by being the first district in the state to adopt an electric Blue Bird Type D school bus. This enhanced thermal management system will be a marked improvement for operating the bus in our often-frigid winter temperatures.”

If you’re ready to equip your school district with high-performance electric buses, depend on Blue Bird.

Request a quote to learn more about the benefits of switching to electric-powered buses for your drivers, students, and schools.

Our Grant Support Team can also tell you how to apply for valuable funding opportunities to offset the upfront costs of purchasing Blue Bird electric school buses and charging infrastructure.

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