West Virginia state legislators, meeting at Cacapon State Park this week for interim meetings, won’t be sucking diesel fumes riding on school buses, like the school kids in Morgan County do every morning.
Instead, the legislators will be riding on clean, fume-free electric school buses.
Three of the brand spanking new electric buses were parked in front of the lodge at Cacapon State Park this morning waiting to shuttle the legislators to Berkeley Springs for dinner and sightseeing.
The three full sized electric buses are the only ones in West Virginia – one for Ohio County, one for Grant County and one for Monongalia County.
But that’s just the initial pilot program.
In the coming months, another five will be delivered to other counties around the state. Wirt County got one bus, Boone County got three and Wyoming County got one.
Morgan County applied for five buses, but did not win the electric school bus lottery.
The counties that won the lottery got $375,000 from a federal grant to buy each bus and an additional $20,000 per bus for charging infrastructure.
Mark Nestlen, a vice president at GreenPower Motor Company, the maker of the electric buses, anticipates that the state’s entire fleet of about 3,000 diesel buses will be replaced by electric buses in coming years.
GreenPower will start manufacturing additional electric school buses in January 2023 at their South Charleston, West Virginia facility, which is producing buses for the market east of the Mississippi River.
“Nationwide and in West Virginia, you’re sitting on the start of a brand new school day,” Nestlen told Morgan County USA in an interview on one of the buses parked outside the Cacapon State Park lodge, waiting to transport the legislators to Berkeley Springs.
“This is what the future is going to look like in school bus transportation – electric buses in school bus transportation,” he said. “It makes a lot of sense. Routes are set. You know how many miles buses are going to travel, you know where they’re going to travel, you know the periods of time that you can charge vehicles. From a logistics standpoint, it’s very easy to replace your diesel fleet with an electric school bus fleet.”
West Virginia is a conservative fossil fuel state. How are you going to sell electric buses to these legislators?
“What’s going to make the electricity for these buses?” Nestlen asks. “Coal. Every time you see a railcar full of coal, there goes another load of electric bus fuel. Coal makes the electricity that powers these vehicles.”
“How does that benefit the climate? You can do a much better job controlling emissions for a sole source – the coal plant — than you can from controlling emissions from 3,000 sources – the buses.”
“The best education is our number one priority at Grant County Schools, but we also have a responsibility to give our students a better planet as well,” said Mitch Webster, superintendent of Grant County Schools. “Through our participation in the GreenPower electric school bus pilot program, we can do our part too. Our students will have the opportunity to ride in an all-electric school bus from a company who manufactures these buses right here in our home state and we look forward to being part of the program.”