Lightning eMotors and Forest River, a company owned by Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, have entered into a strategic agreement that will produce up to 7,500 electric buses.
The deal which could be worth $850 million will see Lightning eMotors building powertrains for the purely electric buses Forest River will produce over the next four and a half years. Lightning eMotors will also provide charging equipment and services.
The powertrains will be made at Lightning eMotors’ production facilities in Loveland, Colorado. Forest River will assemble the Class 4 and 5 buses at its plant in Goshen, Indiana.
As the leading shuttle bus manufacturer in North America, Forest River maintains eight production units with a total capacity of more than 500,000 square feet, of which 100,000 square feet will be dedicated to the electric buses. It sells more than 10,000 units yearly through its brands like Glaval, Starcraft, and Champion.
The buses that the two companies are collaborating on will feature battery configurations from 80 kWh to more than 160 kWh. Their health will be ensured through advanced battery thermal management systems. The range will be between 80 and 160 miles per charge, with charging taking as little as a lunch break with Lightning eMotors’ DC fast chargers. To make the buses versatile, they will come with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capabilities.
Buyes will choose between 12 and 33 passengers configuration, from lengths of up to 34 feet.
Other features of the Forest River electric buses include a digital dashboard, advanced telematics for fleet management, and a mobile app for both fleet managers and drivers. The buses will be compliant with both Federal Transit Administration’s and Federal Aviation Administration’s “Buy American” guidelines.
Forest Hill will sell the buses through its more than 100 dealerships across the US and Canada, where they will also be serviced. Production has already started with the first batch of buses expected to be delivered by the end of 2021.
Tim Reeser, CEO of Lightning eMotors, said, “This has the potential to be the largest contract ever in the electric shuttle bus market, and we believe it will be the catalyst for other large commercial vehicle OEMs and fleets to accelerate their adoption of commercial electric vehicles…Forest River’s sales volumes allow us to provide a price point to their dealers and customers that results in a very compelling ROI. We believe this commitment from the largest shuttle bus manufacturer in the U.S. demonstrates that they believe that commercial vehicle customers are now demanding Lightning eMotors’ zero-emission vehicles over ICE vehicles.”
David Wright, president of Forest River’s bus divisions, explains why his company chose to collaborate with Lightning eMotors, “We decided to work with Lightning eMotors after several years of extensive research because of their market and technology leadership in the commercial EV segment. I was especially impressed after visiting their manufacturing facility in Colorado, driving their vehicles, and talking to their customers. It is clear why Lightning eMotors is at the forefront of fleet electrification. We’ll be providing our customers with a factory-installed electric powertrain that has proven technology relied upon by major fleets, at a price point no one else has been able to achieve. We believe this will be a game-changer for shuttle-bus operators.”