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Behind the Business: Thomas Built Buses Merges a Classic Design with Electric Adaptability to Power the School Bus of the Future

| Manufacturing

What is the coolest thing made in North Carolina? This year, according to more than 50,000 voters across the state, that honor belongs to Thomas Built Buses’ Saf-T-Liner® C2 Jouley Electric School Bus.

These voters all took part in the NC Chamber’s inaugural “Coolest Thing Made in NC” contest, presented by Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc. and supported by the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Starting with a field of 72 North Carolina-made nominees, voters picked their favorite products over several rounds of online voting to ultimately crown a single champion. The neck-and-neck competition featured an impressive range of goods spanning virtually every product type imaginable – from jets and high-tech gadgets to food and beverage staples – but the C2 Jouley emerged victorious over other worthy products for its forward-thinking design concept that merges classic stylings with electric adaptability.

The result of this marriage of old and new? A bus that boasts the road-tested performance of Thomas Built Buses’ legendary Saf-T-Liner C2 with the flexibility to deliver on the needs of a new generation of student commuters.

A subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America, Thomas Built Buses has stood at the forefront of safety and technology advancements in the school bus industry for nearly a century. Since 2004, the High Point-based company’s industry-leading Saf-T-Liner C2 has helped ferry millions of America’s students securely to their destinations. In June 2018, the 100,000th Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner C2 was delivered to a school system in West Virginia. The C2 Jouley, which started production earlier this year, advances the industry further, adding noise-free and emissions-free capabilities to the tried-and-true Saf-T-Liner formula for optimal safety and performance.

The safety-conscious design of the C2 Jouley starts with a battery powered by Proterra®, the leading battery manufacturer. This battery can charge in two to three hours, has an operating range of 135 miles, and can reach a top speed of 65 miles per hour – making the C2 Jouley ideal for in-town routes. Like the standard Saf-T-Liner C2, the Jouley offers best-in-class visibility among Type C buses, a 55-degree wheel cut for supreme maneuverability, and capacity for up to 81 passengers. The vehicle’s quiet, electric profile takes safety to a new level, however, by cutting down on road noise that can interfere with a driver’s awareness of activity inside and outside the bus.

Electric power also means no emissions exiting the tailpipe – there is no tailpipe to speak of, in fact – which makes the Jouley a smart choice for a cleaner, greener world. The vehicle allows for an array of optional upgrades, including Wi-Fi access, giving operators the ability to further enhance the experience for student commuters and keep them connected with educational resources even while on the go. Potential operators will also be happy to learn that the advancements made across the Jouley’s systems result in a bus that is more cost-efficient over its entire lifespan than the original model.

The Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley is already turning heads, with numerous operators around the country placing large orders in 2020. It has also generated buzz of a different kind; the vehicle’s win for “Coolest Thing Made in NC” earned headlines in media outlets like WGHP-TV, the North State Journal, and Business North Carolina. With its future-minded functionality, the Jouley makes the perfect ambassador for the state’s entire manufacturing industry.

When COVID-19 struck, our manufacturers – the backbone of our statewide economy – turned on a dime to update their processes, ensuring they could keep our nation supplied with essential products and keep North Carolina moving forward. The NC Chamber will always be proud to shine a light on a well-made, homegrown product like Thomas Built Buses’ Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley. This year, more than ever, we could not be prouder to celebrate the countless manufacturers whose products help make North Carolina the best state in the nation to live, work, and raise a family.

Behind each business in North Carolina are the ideas, partnerships, and people that fuel our state’s success. Behind each business is a story and a vision for the future. As the voice for business, the NC Chamber is committed to telling these stories and highlighting the organizations and people that keep our state moving forward. Behind the Business is a series of profiles featuring NC Chamber Cornerstone members doing great work in North Carolina. Interested in being featured? Contact