James Mansell at BusCon 2018.

James Mansell at BusCon 2018.

One of the big splashes at BusCon 2018 was the unveiling of Micro Bird Commercial’s D-Series Electric, which is built on a Ford E450 chassis and features a 158-inch wheelbase.

“Having an electric unit here is great,” said James Mansell, national sales manager for Micro Bird Commercial on the show floor. “We spent a lot of time educating people on what we’re doing while here at BusCon, so it’s been really good, and in return, I think it will generate business for us moving forward.”

METRO spoke to Mansell about the D-Series shortly after the unveiling.

How did this electric unit come about…was it based on customer feedback? Both Quebec and California have been very progressive with alt fuels and electric, especially, because of the grant money available. In Quebec, because of our dependence on hydroelectricity and it being a provincial type of organization, that has pushed electric forward as well. This relationship with Econtuned is a good one. They are a battery upfitter for Ford products, so they are supplying the engines for us. What’s great about this product is the warranty; it’s fully warrantied by Micro Bird, so there’s no third-party involved. Our dealers and Micro Bird will warranty the product, so we don’t have to worry about any third-party servicing the vehicles or causing any issues moving forward. I’m really excited about that.

What are some of the highlights of the bus? The range is 100 to 120 hours. It’s a six to seven hour fill time. There is a two-gear transmission that provides a lot of torque on the low level, which is great for takeoff. It actually will go from zero to 30 miles per hour in about six seconds, so the power and the torque from this unit is exceptional — it is equal or better to the gas version. You have four different modes you can put the product in — standard mode, city mode, highway mode, or eco mode — so the driver can, depending on the routes, maximize the battery charge and distance by using these modes. That is a great feature. We know that weather and driver tendencies are the major factors in draw of electric, and we have kind of managed to take a look at that, and hopefully, help the driver manage the charge as best as possible.

Have you already tested the product out on the road? Yes. We’ve done a lot of testing already. This unit here at the show is going to be crash tested for safety reasons. The first units that have been sold are running in Quebec doing tours and so forth. It’s not a finished project as of yet, but we are taking orders moving forward, and we are confident customers will be really happy with the system.

What is the timeframe for production? As I mentioned, we are taking orders now. Once we get the units in and built it will depend on Ecotuned’s turnaround time. We expect the amount of units we can do at a time will be limited in this first year until we ramp up production and get everything going. We don’t expect to do a huge volume in the first year.

Micro Bird's James Mansell at the unveiling of the new D-Series at BusCon.

Micro Bird's James Mansell at the unveiling of the new D-Series at BusCon.

What markets is the D-Series ideal for? We’ve had a lot of different types of organizations from BusCon asking about this, from transit authorities to assisted living  to parking to university, so everyone is getting prepared and educating themselves on electric, and this vehicle can fit their needs.

Do you feel you are at an advantage since many already know the Micro Bird name? Yes, and that goes back to the Girardin family. They have been around a long time, and we’ve been manufacturing cutaway buses for more than 65 years, so people know the Girardin family name, they know Micro Bird, and now they are getting to know Micro Bird Commercial as just not a school bus company, but as a safety-driven, cost of operation company that makes a superior body, overall. Now, we’re bringing this electric powertrain on top of that body, so it will be a win-win for our customers. I think we’ll continue to see improved growth, and more and more Micro Bird Commercial units on the road every year.

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