GreenPower makes transition to bus manufacturing
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - All-electric school buses are becoming more of a reality every day at a manufacturing facility in South Charleston.
The state of West Virginia committed $15 million Thursday toward the purchase of 41 all-electric, school buses -- each one manufactured at the facility in South Charleston.
Delegate Christopher Toney, R-Raleigh, a school bus driver himself, made the announcement.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to add jobs to the state, especially manufacturing positions like this in an area where we need it the most,” Toney said.
The manufacturer, GreenPower Motor Company, first arrived in West Virginia last year and took possession of its facility in August.
Since then, it has processed more than 100 non-bus vehicles, but that is about to change.
Thursday marked its transition to bus manufacturing -- 10 small buses to be built in the coming weeks, and the first large bus expected to roll down the assembly line in October.
Employment also has grown from 25 workers currently to 65 in October -- and 200 projected by 2024.
The company’s president, Brendan Riley, said the state’s $15 million contract will have a big impact.
“It’s giving us the ability to set up a factory that’s going to take the entire eastern United States by storm delivering the best battery-electric school bus on the market,” Riley said.
But why West Virginia?
It’s a question the company’s president hears often.
“A place that a lot of people questioning, ‘Why we would operate school buses in such a hilly, diverse with a lot of rural areas,” Riley said. “The school buses have been working great, and this has been an incredible proof of what we had expected the whole time.”
His confidence comes from a year-long pilot project that has put his buses to the test.
In Mineral County, officials ran the bus in the winter on Mount Storm, very steep terrain in the state’s Eastern Panhandle.
“It is able to go the mountain, run the heat, pick up the kids and make it back with charge and was able to go again in the evening,” said Todd Liller of Mineral County Schools.
The company says with proper charging between runs the buses have gone 200 to 250 miles per day.
Calhoun County gets its chance next week.
“I think we are the definition of rural for West Virginia -- centrally located. We can honestly say that this bus will be on the back roads the entire time,” said Michael Fitzwater of Calhoun County Schools. “So we will get a good test of what the Beast will do.”
And the GreenPower is now hiring. Company officials saying those interested can apply at the GreenPower website.
The company also said it is working with BridgeValley Community and Technical College to train its workforce.
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