Diesel-to-Electric Repowering Can be a Stepping Stone to All-Electric

These vehicles can be used effectively on shorter-distance routes and shuttle programs

With the advent of diesel-to-electric repowering, next-level sustainability is becoming more affordable for bus fleet operations.

At ABC Companies, we have partnered with Lightning eMotors to develop a five-step process to identify, assess, and convert “donor” diesel coaches with a proprietary, fast-track battery electric conversion called ABC “Repowered.” After identification and assessment, Lightning eMotors engineers a repower kit to be installed by technicians from the ABC Companies Specialty Vehicles and Technologies (SVT) division.

This process begins with a detailed evaluation and inspection including a VIN history review to determine if a vehicle is a good candidate for Repower. Then the vehicle is “de-commissioned” removing all equipment and components not required for batteries, controllers, electric drive and auxiliary power.  Also, belt-driven components are removed for replacement with electric motors and other  components are modified for electric power.  After de-commissioning and before repowering to all electric, any customer requested refurbishment is completed.  Finally, the vehicle goes through testing before it is delivered to the customer.

The first diesel-to-electric repowered coach from this program was delivered to one of Silicon Valley’s largest battery-electric fleet commuter operators. Many of these vehicles are being targeted for use in specific applications including employee shuttle programs, airport and hotel shuttles, or other applications requiring no idle or low noise vehicles.

HVAC usage, ambient temperature, elevation changes, route geography, driver behavior, etc. all play significant factors in efficiency and range variance.  While research into range is still underway, repowered vehicles are currently averaging 2.5 kWH per mile and traveling more than 200 miles on a single charge. 

During trials, while following the normal preventative maintenance (PM) schedules for repowered vehicles, we are already seeing a roughly 30 percent reduction in PM costs. These vehicles are maintained by technicians who have completed SAE high-voltage training and further application-specific training can be provided by ABC’s CustomerCare technical trainers.  

The end result is a quieter, smoother riding, and more environmentally friendly bus than the previous diesel iteration. Now with the ABC Companies Repowered program, operators have a lower cost stepping stone into EV integration as fleet owners work to get back on the road.

Brian Nelson is director of technical solutions for ABC Companies. Visit ABC-Companies.com for more information. To learn more about ABC Repowered, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJRcqzo8D-g.