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West Virginia launches pilot project for new, electric-powered school buses

GreenPower Motor Company Inc. has coordinated with West Virginia officials to bring zero-emission, fully electric school buses to school districts in pilot

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Vice President Kamala Harris greets student environmental leaders as she tours electric school buses during an event at Meridian High School in Falls Church, Va., Friday, May 20, 2022.

Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

Electric cars aren’t a rare sight in the United States any more, but what about electric buses? GreenPower Motor Company announced Tuesday the launch of its pilot project to test all-electric school buses across West Virginia, in coordination with the state’s school transportation operations.

Fraser Atkinson, CEO of GreenPower, said in a press release that West Virginia was the “perfect location” for the pilot project due to the state’s environment.

“The terrain, weather conditions, and the combination of rural and urban settings will give a real-life demonstration of the school buses’ capabilities,” said Atkinson. “The only way for school districts to become comfortable with the new technology is through hands-on experience.”

Starting with Cabell, Kanawha and Mercer Counties, schools will have access to GreenPower Type D BEAST school buses. The Type A Nano BEAST, a bus that meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards, will come in the later weeks. The BEAST has a seating capacity of 90 students, can travel up to 140 miles with one full battery charge and offers zero emissions, according to GreenPower.

An absence of NOx emissions from these school buses will enhance the air quality for riders and the community, as well as prevent the many health issues that exposure to NOx can cause. The United States Environmental Protection Agency wrote that not only does NOx and NO2 pollution contribute to acid rain and the pollution of coastal waters, but long exposure to its fumes can lead to asthma and susceptibility to lung infections.

In addition to having a positive impact on environmental and public health, the hope is new school buses will support the state’s economy as well. Mercer County Board of Education President Greg Prudich told The Register-Herald that West Virginian coal will power the generators that the BEAST and Nano BEAST buses require.

“You’re looking at the future of buses made in West Virginia, electrified buses that are charged with West Virginia electricity created by West Virginia coal,” Prudich said. “We want to be the county that utilizes the best for our students and we believe this is the coming wave of what is best for our students.”

The BEAST buses made their first route Wednesday morning, and will run in Cabell, Kanawha and Mercer counties for the next six weeks. Afterward, they’ll be moved to counties in different areas of West Virginia for further testing. Should testing be successful and buses be distributed across the state, GreenPower’s electric school buses will help to transport the roughly 220,000 K-12 public students that ride public transportation daily, according to PR Newswire.