The benefits of Volkswagen buying a significant shareholding have started to reveal themselves at US commercial vehicle maker Navistar with one of the company’s subsidiaries, IC Bus revealing a zero-emission school bus using VW sourced technology.

The IC Electric Bus chargE is a fully electric school bus that makes conventional school buses seem like ancient, smog-spewing relics.

The chargE is the latest project by IC Bus, one of the leading school bus manufacturers in the USA.

IC Bus built the charge in partnership with Volkswagen Truck & Bus and the companies plan to sell a production version of the chargE late next year or in early 2020.

Volkswagen has a17 per cent share Navistar and has already stated it is considering acquiring a larger controlling interest in the company.

Navistar has displayed the chargE at a large green transportation conference in Long Beach, California to demonstrate the technology on public roads.

The charge has no diesel engine noise and no exhaust emissions and is said to provide a smooth and quiet ride with instant torque, which allows it to take off from traffic lights with ease.

Low noise means passengers can converse without raising their voices to a shout.

Volkswagen provided the electric motors for the chargE, taking two of the motors used in its emissions-free passenger cars and fusing them in a single custom unit. There is a one-speed transmission housed within the rear axle. The result is a powertrain that produces up to 260 kilowatts, or the equivalent of 349 horsepower. Its biggest problem could be drivers overhearing back-of-the-bus conversations with perfect clarity.

Typically a bus of this size has around 13 rows of seats for up to 78 people.

For the demo, the middle rows of the chargE seating were removed to make space for a glass bottom to showcase the electric components working underneath the floor.

Navistar is banking on the huge potential savings of electric buses.

Navistar’s vice president of product marketing, Steve Gilligan said that what’s really changing is the affordability of the technology.

“Since electric powertrains have fewer moving parts they require less maintenance and repair and we believes less downtime will offset any additional up-front cost with the result being a lower total cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle,” said Steve Gilligan.

California has particularly embraced electric buses and is providing a helping hand to school districts interested in an electric bus fleet.

Three utility companies will install electric charging infrastructure as part of a $US43 million plan approved by the California Public Utilities Commission with school buses are top of mind.

The adoption of electric buses will help the environment and provide school districts with a boost in public image, said Dean Oppermann, chief engineer for Navistar.

Navistar is claiming that depending on the district’s needs the chargE is capable of a 200km range on a 10-hour charge. The average school bus route in the US is closer to 100km, according to Navistar.

The company plans to offer a modular range of powertrain options to fit each district’s needs and budget. Navistar will also assist with planning the most effective charging schedules and infrastructure build.

“We want to work with our customers to sell them the bus that they need, not the bus that fits everyone,” Oppermann said.

Navistar is looking to act quickly and the company touted its bus to dozens of school districts and government agencies on a tour from Seattle to San Diego.