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Lightning Systems converting 35-foot diesel buses to battery-electrics in Boulder; cost-effective electrification

Lightning Systems, a global developer of zero-emission solutions for commercial fleets, is partnering with the City of Boulder and transit provider Via Mobility Services to repower diesel buses with battery-electric systems. The first demonstration vehicle will be on the road this summer and will give the bus more than 200 miles of all-electric range.

Tyler Yadon, director of engineering at Lightning Systems, said that the vehicle will have a 257 kWh battery pack coupled with a 220 kW traction motor with a 2-speed transmission. No further powertrain specs are available at this time.

Boulder Via Hop bus copy

Via Mobility Services, a local nonprofit social enterprise, operates Boulder’s HOP transit route, a high-frequency shuttle service serving Boulder hotspots like the University of Colorado campus and Downtown Boulder. This project will be the first step for the City of Boulder and Via in realizing their combined goal of converting the HOP fleet of 35-foot transit buses to all-electric vehicles.

Upon the success of the first vehicle, additional HOP service buses may be converted, providing an efficient and cost-effective alternative to replacing the entire fleet with new electric buses. Repowering an existing diesel transit bus with the LightningElectric product will cost one-third the price of a new electric bus.

In addition, there is a backlog of two years or more for new electric buses from other manufacturers, so the repowered buses will allow Via and the City of Boulder to quickly reach their goal of an all-electric fleet in an expedited timeframe. The city and Via staff plan to continue to transition the entire HOP fleet to zero-emission vehicles in the near-term.

People in Boulder are very interested in reducing the carbon footprint in all that we do. Boulder is built on a strong value system for recycling, so why not recycle our buses? Recycle them and make buses out of buses. That’s the motivation we’ve had for doing this. We hope that, upon approval, this partnership with Lightning Systems will blow the market open for repowering old buses around the country, reduce emissions in local environments, and stabilize costs for the future.

—Frank Bruno, CEO, Via Mobility Services

Natalie Stiffler, Boulder senior transportation planner, said that repowering the demonstration vehicle is a step on the path to meeting GHG and climate commitment goals. She added that Boulder and Via are working on the Resiliency Project, a renewable energy project focused on adding solar at Via’s facility, which currently powers 30% of its business using solar energy.

The long-term plan is that we’ll be able to fuel the vehicles with the solar energy that’s collected at Via’s site.

—Natalie Stiffler

In February 2017, the City of Boulder and Via secured federal and state funding for the purchase of their first electric bus, along with charging infrastructure to serve the HOP transit route. Via’s 63rd Street facility has a large solar array and is in the process of installing battery storage and on-site generation capabilities.

Lightning is thrilled about this new relationship. It is compelling for three reasons: it’s sustainable, high quality, and an exceptional value for the money. By repowering the buses and by using federal and state incentives to go green with their fleet, the City of Boulder and Via are saving green while going green.

This project is a great example of how to take something that has a lot of useable life left and breathe new energy into it in a sustainable way. And don’t forget, Lightning is located in Northern Colorado—so this project employs people locally and benefits the local community.

—Charlie Travis, director of business development and strategic accounts for Lightning Systems

Lightning Systems offers products to support commercial and government fleets, including the LightningElectric, a zero-emission full-electric powertrain designed for fleets, with a hydrogen fuel-cell option; LightningAnalytics, a cloud-based analytics system for fleet vehicles; and LightningHybrid, a hydraulic hybrid energy recovery system for heavy-duty vehicles.



Buses and local delivery trucks are prime targets for conversions.


To convert existing diesel city buses into e-buses and to continue buying diesel units by the 1000s at the same time does not back much sense?


Hats off to Boulder for deciding to accelerate their goal to 100% electric buses using the idea of retrofitting.

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