ABC Companies will soon be the first to offer a motorcoach diesel-to-electric repower program for North American operators. It aims to reduce the cost of converting to a zero-emission fleet.
Together with Lightning eMotors, formerly known as Lightning Systems, ABC has created a five-step process for identifying, assessing and converting a wide range of “donor” diesel coach models that fit the criteria for fast-track battery-electric conversion.
The repower kits are engineered by Lightning eMotors and will be installed by ABC technicians.
The program will launch under ABC Companies SVT (Specialty Vehicles and Technologies) division, underscoring the company’s focus on lowering EV market cost of entry barriers for coach operators.
“ABC Companies has a very long history of repower and refurbishment expertise, making conversions to battery-electric power a logical next step,” said Roman Cornell, President and Chief Commercial Officer of ABC Companies.
“By sourcing leading suppliers and manufacturers, we will provide a portfolio of offerings and price points that will enable our customers to accelerate their introduction of zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) into their fleets. Although the pandemic has impacted the motorcoach market, we are working to get traditional vehicles back on the road, while investing now with innovative new solutions that will address customers’ needs for environmentally-friendly vehicles as the industry begins to recover.”
In spite of these challenging times, many ABC customers and the clients they serve are developing strategies to reduce their carbon footprint, a trend that was started well before the pandemic, noted Cornell. With the cost of current options that organizations face to reduce their carbon footprint — ranging from clean energy like solar panels to the enormous expense of upgrading or building new energy-efficient facilities — battery-electric coaches suddenly become an attractive lower-cost alternative.
“Zero-emission coaches can offer a lower-cost investment, while producing immediate benefits to the environment. With the variety of incentives for all-electric transportation, many customers are investing now before funding is depleted or no longer available,” Cornell said. “Many see zero-emission coaches as a mobile billboard in their communities, demonstrating an organization’s commitment to the communities where they work and live. The realm of possibilities is exciting, and ABC will work to educate and promote its EV-based solutions to customers in partnership with Lightning eMotors.”
Cornell cited reduced total cost of ownership and monetizing older assets as tangible benefits when specifically looking to add EV repower to fleets.
The new partnership between ABC Companies and Lightning eMotors was formed after a global search for a master service provider with the scope, scale, experience and expertise to develop EV repower kits for a variety of customers and vehicle applications. Lightning eMotors is a leading developer of zero-emission electric powertrains for a wide variety of commercial vehicles and is certified by California Air Resources Board (CARB) and multiple OEM chassis certification programs.
In addition to providing a full range of motorcoach ZEV repower options, ABC will also be an authorized referral agent for repowering many popular shuttle vans and cutaway applications, such as the Lightning Ford Transit passenger van, E-450 and F-550 chassis.
“The ability to assist in electric repowered solutions for our customers using these popular vehicles made Lightning eMotors a great fit for ABC Companies,” Cornell said. “Many of our customers utilize these smaller vehicles for various short-distance routes, such as airport runs and hotel shuttles, as well as last-mile services for smaller groups. These vehicles can provide a lower cost of entry as fleets identify vehicles to be repowered, and we need to be ready to meet those needs.”
First repowered coach
The first repowered motorcoach, a 2012 Van Hool T2145 will be going into operation in the San Francisco area this month, while other motorcoach models are being readied.
“When Roman and I took this zero-emissions motorcoach out for a drive for the first time together, both of us couldn’t stop smiling — the smoothness, the quietness, the power — we both could see that this changes the motorcoach business forever. We are now accelerating additional rollouts of new repower options for a multitude of new motorcoach platforms,” said Tim Reeser, CEO of Lightning eMotors.
ABC is delivering the first repowered motorcoach application and launching the Lightning eMotors EV repower kit option. The company will also debut its first fully battery-electric OEM-produced Van Hool motorcoach later in 2020. The Van Hool CX45E was featured at the 2020 UMA Expo and designed specifically for battery-electric power. The company predicts the new coach will change the way the industry views zero-emission motorcoach travel.
“We must continually reassess our offering based on customer needs,” Cornell said. “Aligning with the right partners to bring scalable and flexible solutions to our customers is what drives our business strategies.”