Subscription model provides electric school bus fleet at low cost

A new industry partnership will create a subscription model that aims to lower the cost of electric bus fleets for schools.

Highland Electric Fleets (Highland), the leading provider of turnkey electrification services for school bus fleets in North America, and Thomas Built Buses (TBB), one of the nation’s leading school bus manufacturers, are expanding their relationship to lower upfront costs and speed adoption of electric school buses. 

The two companies signed a letter of intent (LOI) that will allow Highland to provide electric school bus subscriptions through 2025 at prices that put them at cost parity with diesel.

326-bus order

The LOI builds on a successful relationship that resulted in the largest school bus fleet order in North America to date, a 326-bus order approved by Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools in February 2021. 

The first 45-charger depot has been installed in Bethesda, Maryland, and the first 25 buses began transporting students this month. The LOI will enable Highland and TBB to replicate similar large-scale, multi-year deployments in the United States and Canada.

Highland offers a unique, full-service subscription model that includes everything a school district or fleet operator needs to integrate electric school buses into their existing fleets. The company provides the school buses, installs charging infrastructure, manages charging, provides fleet and driver training resources, and manages service to keep fleets running smoothly. 

Established in 2019, Highland has grown quickly throughout North America and is already providing its turnkey model to both school districts and third-party operators in several U.S. states.

“School districts taking a long-term approach to electrifying their fleets can now do so today, affordably. This relationship allows school districts and fleet operators to go electric at the same cost as a diesel bus,” said Duncan McIntyre, CEO of Highland.

“Together with Thomas Built Buses, we have already fulfilled the nation’s largest school bus order,” McIntire said. “That experience and the quality of their all-electric Jouley school bus makes them a perfect partner to support customers’ long-term success and build cleaner communities.”

Manufactured in the U.S.

Designed, engineered and manufactured in the U.S., the all-electric Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley from TBB is offered with 226 kWh of total energy capacity, enabling an industry-leading operating range of up to 138 miles on a single charge and meeting the needs of most school bus fleets. 

TBB has built on its 106-year manufacturing history to quickly become a leader in school bus electrification. Since 2020, the company has delivered nearly 100 all-electric Jouleys to customers across the country.

“We’re thankful for the partnership to date, as well as for the prospect of a long-lasting relationship with Highland,” said Kevin Bangston, President and CEO of TBB, a subsidiary of Daimler Truck North America, in a release.

“(Highland’s) clear dedication to customers, vision for a future of zero-emissions school buses and unique model of providing a holistic, turnkey solution is the perfect complement to our own engineering and manufacturing expertise,” Bangston said. “We look forward to collaborating with Highland and our exceptional dealer network to provide a strong and lasting partnership that helps districts drive toward a brighter, cleaner future.”


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