The first US-made LionC zero-emission electric school bus rolls off the factory line in Illinois

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As electric school buses gain momentum across the US, Lion Electric announced Wednesday it produced its first “made in America” LionC zero-emission EV school bus at its Joliet, Illinois factory.

In May 2021, Lion Electric selected Joliet, Illinois, to be the home of its future US manufacturing facility. The 900,000-square-foot plant was touted as the largest dedicated production site of zero-emission medium and heavy-duty EVs in the US.

Lion Electric was a first mover in fully electric medium and heavy-duty vehicles like EV school buses with over 12 years of experience now.

Even before the “all in” mindset spread across the globe on EVs and zero-emission technology to limit the transportation sector’s environmental impact, Lion was entirely focused on electrification. The company’s dedication has paid off, with over 700 electric vehicles on the road 10 million miles utilizing its platforms.

Lion has several major clients across North America for its electric trucks (Amazon, Ikea) and buses (First Student, LA USD, STA, National Express, ZUM).

To help customers convert to electricity, Lion offers a complete turnkey solution, including EV selection, supporting charging infrastructure, grants assistance, financing, training, maintenance, and communications.

Until now, Lion has manufactured its electric vehicles at its dedicated 200,000-square-foot facility near Montreal, Quebec, which also serves as its headquarters and R&D center. With the site having a 2,500 EV annual production capacity, Lion is expanding its manufacturing footprint to assist the growing demand for electric school buses in the US with its Joliet factory.

During its second-quarter earnings, Lion said it was on track to produce its first electric school buses at its US-based factory by the end of the year, and today the company is making good on that claim.

Lion Electric LionC zero-emission school bus Source: Lion Electric

The first Lion electric school bus produced in the US

“Today is a significant milestone for Lion,” Eric Pansegrau, GM of Lion’s Joliet factory, states as the first LionC electric school bus rolls off the line.

With the recent US climate and funding initiatives, Lion Electric is “well-positioned to support school districts with their transition,” offering their complete network approach. For example, the EPA Clean School Bus program (part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) supplies $5 billion in funding to accelerate the electric school bus rollout in the US. The first round of nearly $1 billion was just awarded to 289 school districts.

On top of this, several cities and states have committed to EV school buses, such as New York, which intends to electrify 100% of its school bus fleet by 2035.

Mr. Pansegrau continued:

We are excited to now be entering the ramp-up phase of production, with an initial focus on the all-electric LionC school bus. We will spare no effort in the gradual scale-up of manufacturing, which we anticipate will be spread out over the next few quarters.

Lion expects its Joliet factory to have an annual production capacity of 20,000 electric buses and trucks after it scales its manufacturing operations. The site will first focus on electric school buses to meet the surging demand.

Electrek’s Take

Lion Electric producing its first EV school bus in the US is a remarkable accomplishment for the company and the overall transition to fully electric vehicles.

As my colleague Fred Lambert said, Lion serves as the perfect example showcasing how companies can embrace the shift to electric vehicles. Lion was relatively small compared to other school bus manufacturers, but its early focus on electric propulsion has propelled them to emerge as a leading school bus maker across North America.

With the LionC E school bus now being produced in the US, I hope it can accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles for school districts.

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