Forest River & Lightning partner up on e-buses

Forest River, which is the largest maker of shuttle buses in North America, and Lightning eMotors that specialises in electric commercial vehicles for fleets, have announced a strategic partnership worth approximately $850 million. The partners aim to put up to 7,500 electric shuttle buses on roads in the US and Canada by 2025.

++ This article has been updated. Kindly continue reading below. ++

Lightning eMotors says the agreement means they will be building all-electric powertrains and provide charging products and services to Forest River over the next four and a half years. The zero-emission vehicle propulsion systems will be built at the company’s plant in Loveland, in the US state of Colorado. The powertrains will be delivered to Forest River’s plant in Goshen, Indiana, for the final assembly of the River Lightning EV Shuttles.

Forest River and Lightning eMotors plan to produce Class 4 and Class 5 shuttles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 14,500 to 19,500 pounds (about 6,577 to 8,845 kilograms). They will be equipped with battery configurations ranging from 80 to more than 160 kWh and will have a range of 80 to 160 miles (about 129 to 257 kilometres) per battery charge. Lightning says that the vehicles can be charged “during the lunch hour” via Lightning eMotors’ DC fast charging infrastructure with integrated vehicle-to-grid (V2G) functionality.

The buses range in length from six to 10 meters and have seating for twelve to 33 passengers. Other features include an advanced digital dashboard, a hill-hold function, advanced telematics, analytics, and a mobile app for drivers and fleet managers, according to the release.

Production of the passenger buses is already underway, according to the statement. Forest River has eight manufacturing buildings with more than 500,000 square feet of production space. The Elkhart, Indiana-based company plans to use 100,000 square feet to install Lightning eMotors’ powertrains. The company expects to deliver “several dozen” of the new electric shuttle buses to its more than 100 dealers in the two North American countries by the end of the year.

Lightning eMotors makes electric vehicles for commercial fleet use, including cargo and passenger vans, shuttle buses, ambulances, school buses and RVs. In April, the company made public a collaboration with Leader Emergency Vehicles, a subsidiary of REV Group, to develop all-electric ambulances.

DHL Express, part of Deutsche Post, also uses Lightning eMotors’ vehicles. In March, it was announced that after a successful pilot program with nine Lightning Electric Ford Transit 350HD electric delivery trucks, the company plans to deploy 89 electric vehicles in New York and California this year. In March this year, Lightning eMotors also received an order from the Fluid Truck company for an additional 40 electric delivery vehicles for its fleet in New York.

Update 29 March 2022

Lightning eMotors announced it has expanded its partnership with Forest River to offer a factory-certified all-electric repower programme for shuttle buses and passenger vans. According to the company, there are currently more than 50,000 Forest River shuttle buses and passenger vans across the U.S. and Canada that are eligible for this programme.

“There have been attempts by smaller and early-stage EV technology companies to repower gasoline and diesel buses to electric, but fleets have been hesitant to invest in these third-party, unauthorized and unproven solutions,” explains Lightning eMotors CEO Tim Reeser, adding: “With the Forest River and Lightning eMotors’ factory-certified repower program fleets can be assured they will get a proven and reliable solution backed by two established companies that will stand behind the offering and support the vehicles through their second life.”, (update)


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