Transportation

High-Tech Alabama Plant Produces First New Electric Bus Models

New Flyer is currently creating a hub of electric-buses in their Anniston, Ala. plant.

by Patrick McCreless, The Anniston Star / January 5, 2018
A New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE electric bus. New Flyer

(TNS) — International bus manufacturer New Flyer recently completed the first of its newest electric buses in Anniston, cementing the Model City as the hub of the company’s state-of-the-art technology and innovation.

The Anniston plant is currently the sole producer of the Xcelsior CHARGE zero-emission, battery electric, heavy-duty bus, first unveiled in October, New Flyer announced in a Wednesday press release. Successful production of the bus is the latest step in New Flyer’s $25 million investment to expand production in Anniston, hire more workers and make the plant the center of the company’s high-tech research and development.

Kevin Wood, senior vice president of manufacturing and facilities at New Flyer, said that over the past month, the Anniston plant manufactured the first five next-generation, battery-electric buses and delivered them to New York City.

“We’ve got orders for 90 more buses this year for other customers,” Wood said. “Over the past two years, we invested significantly to establish Anniston as a leader in American bus manufacturing and advanced vehicle innovation ... we are proud to bring electrification into the fold.”

The Xcelsior CHARGE is available in 35, 40, and 60-foot bus rapid transit articulated models. A 40-foot CHARGE costs between $750,000 and $950,000, depending on the features.

The CHARGE is similar to New Flyer’s older electric buses, but has smaller, more energy-efficient batteries. The new bus has a range of more than 200 miles for a single charge.

The new bus also has a port on top that can connect to a special charging station. A driver can pull into the charging station and gain another hour of driving time in six minutes so he can quickly return to his route.

In September New Flyer announced it would invest $25 million for a 76,000-square-foot expansion and renovation project at the Anniston plant. Aside from beginning assembly of the new electric bus, the facility is on schedule to expand production of all vehicle models and hire 60 more employees this year. The Anniston site currently has around 500 workers.

New fabrication equipment recently installed as part of the $25 million investment, including laser cutters and metal pressers, were online making bus parts at the plant Thursday. The state-of-the-art 6,000-watt laser machines were entirely automated, cutting bus parts from quarter-inch plate steel.

“And we’re still in transition period for 2018 as we ramp up production of fabrication parts,” said Scott Fischer, primary manufacturing manager.

Two additional press machines designed to bend metal parts for bus frames and new painting booths would be installed in the coming weeks, Fischer said.

The investment also made possible the October opening of the plant’s Vehicle Innovation Center, dedicated to advancing research and development of electric and autonomous driving technologies. New Flyer officials have said it’s the first and only innovation lab of its kind in North America. The center’s opening also marked New Flyer’s further commitment to battery-electric bus manufacturing in Anniston, company officials have said.

Laszlo Juhasz, operations manager for the innovation center, said the facility would soon have a demo version of the new electric bus to show visitors and potential customers.

Juhasz said the center was also preparing to teach New York representatives later this month about how to use the five new electric buses the Anniston plant produced for them.

“We’ll provide an overview of the bus propulsion technology and have our engineers here and have training,” he said.

©2018 The Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.