OTTAWA, ON: At the recent media launch of the 2018 Nissan all-electric sedan in Ottawa, attending journalists went to a dinner in a novel way – on an electric school bus.
It is made in Montreal by The Lion Electric Co. that has been in the business of building zero emission vehicles since 2008.
Its products include box vans, light trucks, transit buses, school buses and even has a long-haul transport truck in the works.
The eLionC looks like any other school bus on the road with its square-rigged styling painted in vivid yellow.
The heart of the eLionC is an electric motor that supplies up to 250 kW (335 hp) which is the same, or greater, than equivalent combustion engine school buses.
The battery packs are manufactured by LG Chem in Michigan and, depending on the number of packs, the range is from 100-255 km.
The batteries have a limited warranty of eight years.
Because there are no emissions, Lion says running one of their buses is the equivalent of taking five cars off the road and eliminating 23 tons of greenhouse gases in the process.
The bus has an on-board 19.2 kW charger that uses the now standard J1772 nozzle.
The driver faces an instrument panel and centre stack that looks conventional in every way except, as is the case for most of the rest of the bus, it is made with composites.
Instrumentation includes speedometer, revs and temperature. On the upper centre stack is a touchscreen with readouts showing such things as remaining driving range and battery charge level.
The chassis architecture is made of aluminum with composite body panels covered with gelcoat so there is never any rust or water leaks. The battery box/tray is made of roto-molded polyethylene.
Passenger seating capacity is from 54 to 72 with a wide range of configurations available — from straight school bus vinyl-covered bench seats to individual coach style, plus a side-loading wheelchair lift is optionally available.
Winter warmth is supplied by two optional 80,000 BTU heaters.
Air conditioning is also optionally available, but it has large school bus size windows so if you don’t want the air, just open the windows.
During the ride from our hotel to dinner, I watched the driver and I didn’t notice he did anything different from a driving a “normal” school bus.
There is still a lot of bus aft of the rear drive wheels. In a tight turn such as on the city streets of Ottawa, the bus pivots on a rear axle with the rear of the bus coming around in an arc called “tail swing”.
Our driver was well aware and his turns were precise.
Because the bus was lightly loaded with just 20 people and the driver, acceleration was brisk — coming up to speed quickly.
Lion Business Development Specialist, David Limoges, said the company is getting a lot of interest here and in the U.S. where Lion is up against Bluebird and Thomas in the race to electrify the ride to school.
While the ride was short, it made a big impression and I peppered Limoges over dinner with lots of questions.
Best way to get the answers will be for me to go to Montreal this year and take out an eLionC for a spin.