Vehicle innovation as a driver of change

How exploration and advancement of bus technologies directly influences social and environmental evolution

By Lindy Norris

With increasing public scrutiny on political decisions as they impact climate change, zero-emission options for public transportation are coming front and center in the consideration set for public transportation authorities. Over the past six months, climate change has established itself as a recurring headline, and as a result, public transit manufacturers are intensifying focus on zero-emission transportation that runs cleaner, greener, and leaner for growing cities. Battery-electric transit has shot to stardom, and North American OEMs find themselves amidst an industry opportunity and moment to shine.

The Vehicle Innovation Center – a first in North America

New Flyer of America is no exception. In September of this year, it announced the Vehicle Innovation Center (VIC), dedicated to exploration and advancement of bus technologies in America. The Center, based at New Flyer of America’s Anniston, Alabama campus and opening October 2017, is North America’s first innovation hub of its kind, brought to life by New Flyer of America, together with Motor Coach Industries (MCI). The Center’s vision is to be America’s leader in the exploration and advancement of bus technology connecting people to places.

Through ongoing operation, exploration, and events, the mission of the Vehicle Innovation Center is to:

• Explore and advance bus and coach technology through sustainable R&D, fresh innovation, progressive manufacturing, and bold thinking;

• Foster dialogue through discussion, education, and training on the latest zero emission and autonomous driving vehicle technologies;

•Engage learning through current and interactive exhibits, experiences, and observations;

• Spark energy and commitment to the air quality, safety and economic benefits for people, communities, and business; and

• Harness the power of collaboration, environmental stewardship, and social change on manufacturing the way we move.

The $25 million expansion and renovation of the Anniston campus, which includes the introduction of the Vehicle Innovation Center, continues New Flyer’s commitment to investment in American infrastructure, manufacturing, and jobs. Acquired by the company in 2013, The New Flyer of America Anniston campus consists of five buildings that produce complete transit buses, from frame welding to final assembly. In 2015, New Flyer invested $20 million to transform the campus to a world-class LEAN manufacturing facility capable of producing New Flyer’s Xcelsior® heavy-duty bus platform.

New Flyer proudly employs more Americans than any other transit bus manufacturer in North America, with 24 fabrication, manufacturing, distribution, and service centers across the United States. Its team, currently 5,400 strong, is tasked with designing and manufacturing buses that are not only reliable, but at the forefront of leading-edge technology, zero-emission and electric advancement, and vehicle innovation.

Climate change and electrifying transit

As interest in environmental stewardship, energy, and climate change becomes increasingly prevalent, the transit industry must continue a rapid evolution by meeting demands, and with proactive, sustainable solutions. The VIC helps New Flyer do just that, by leading industry innovation, exploring zero-emissions technologies, and leveraging its more than 50 years of experience in manufacturing zero-emission buses (ZEBs).

“New Flyer of America announces the Vehicle Innovation Center, aimed at becoming America’s leader in the exploration and advancement of bus technology connecting people to places.”

Just as battery-electric cars have ignited fascination and demand in American consumers over the past decade, battery-electric buses are becoming more understood as a method of public transportation in American cities. Indeed, and perhaps out of necessity, communities are waking up to the power of quieter, cleaner engines and the positive, sustainable impact they lend on smart city planning, environment, health, and quality of life.

More than 7,400 cities globally have committed to greater local efforts to combat climate change. Cities have committed to working together in sharing ideas for delivering carbon-free transit and housing, and collaborating on development of standard emissions reduction measurements to monitor progress. In addition, and shortly following the United States Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, Florida in late June, 364 mayors signed on as “Climate Mayors” – an independent initiative at – to uphold Paris Climate Agreement goals. Atlanta and Los Angeles have started blazing the trail already, with commitments to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, and an emission-free fleet by 2030, respectively.

While electric transit has been around since the 1960s, battery-electric is relatively new. Several other cities are expected to follow suit and look to early adopters such as LA, Washington, and New York as benchmarks for introduction, management, and maintenance of battery-electric buses. Due to infrastructure required to operate and maintain battery-electric fleets, total fleet replacement with battery-electric is not feasible today for most urban, metropolitan, and municipal cities. A blended approach utilizing multiple propulsions is ideal. New Flyer meets that need as the only company making all three types of zero emission buses (fuel cell electric, battery electric and trolley electric), as well as clean diesel, compressed natural gas, and diesel-electric hybrid.

Electric bus technology works, and it’s here to stay. Through the Vehicle Innovation Center, New Flyer of America proudly intends to lead the charge in electric exploration and advancement, and to help propel American cities forward with American-made, American-designed, electric propulsion buses.

Lindy Norris serves as director of marketing communications for New Flyer