MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) – A fully-electric school bus will begin being used by Monongalia County Schools starting on Wednesday, Nov. 2 as part of the West Virginia GreenPower launch all-electric school bus pilot project. But what is different other than the fact that it’s not diesel?

GreenPower Motor Company’s West Virginia pilot project is a cooperation between Governor Jim Justice, his economic development agency, the state department of education, and GreenPower.

Made in West Virginia

The electric “Type D” and “Type A” buses are currently being produced at a GreenPower Motor Company manufacturing facility in South Charleston, West Virginia. Monongalia County Schools is using the 40-foot, 90-passenger electric bus called the “Type D, Beast.”

GreenPower also makes type A Nano-Beast buses, which are 25-foot and hold 24 passengers, and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant versions with wheelchair access, fewer seats and a forklift on the back.

Mark Nestlen, GreenPower business development and strategy vice president, said, “There really hasn’t been a real life, testing, and data collection anywhere in the nation, until we’ve done this now in West Virginia, and the nation’s watching the results of this pilot test.”

Electric vs Diesel

Nestlen said that there are a few advantages to using electric school buses, compared to diesel buses.

  • The legislature passed a piece of legislation this year that increases the school foundation allowance that a school gets if they are driving an electric school bus. This means that schools will get 15% more driving this bus than they get in the foundation allowance already.
  • Operational costs will decrease between 70 to 80 percent.
  • It is safer and healthier for kids not to breathe in the air inside diesel buses.
  • The electric buses are zero-emissions

The Type D electric bus that Monongalia County is using has:

  • Air conditioning and heat
  • Speakers
  • 14 cameras that capture both audio and sound from inside and outside of the bus
  • Three emergency exits – one in the back, side, and top of the bus
  • Air filtration system installed in the roof
  • Four underneath door carriages for storage during travel

Cost-wise, the “Beast” is $375,000 and the “Nano-Beast” is $285,000, while a diesel bus costs around $110,000.

Possible funding opportunities

However, the most recent EPA grant offering was putting out these amounts, which means that schools that did receive this funding will receive the electric buses for free. There are currently 23 county school districts that have applied for the EPA grant. As of Nov. 1, only three have been successful in receiving the funding: Wirt, Boone, and Wyoming counties.

There is another $4 billion that the federal government has not yet given out in the replacement of electric vehicles, so there will be additional opportunities for school districts that applied and did not get it. Nestlen said that there may also be some state funding opportunities.

Goal of the pilot project

The president of Monongalia County Board of Education, Ron Lytle, said that this 18-week pilot program will help them make the decision on switching over to electric buses. “They’re giving us the opportunity to use that bus on our actual routes and determine that based on the data we collect.” Monongalia county will be using this electric bus until the end of December.

Monongalia County is not the only county participating in this project. Round one took place in Mercer, Kanawha, and Cabell counties back in September. Round two of the pilot program is now taking place in Monongalia, Wheeling, Ohio, and Grant counties.

Also in round two of the pilot project, the Nano-Beast will be used for the first time in Clay County. The deployment of that Nano-Beast will be the first ever use of a purpose-built, all-electric, “type A”, ADA-compliant school bus in the nation.