Editorials, Opinion

Electric bus plant brings double benefits to W.Va.

Among the exciting new businesses coming to West Virginia is GreenPower Motor Co.’s electric school bus manufacturing operation, which will make its home in South Charleston.

While the additions of Nucor’s steel mill in Mason County and Owen & Minor’s medical supply center in Monongalia County are to be celebrated, GreenPower’s presence has particularly broad implications — and double the benefits.

Its local impact starts with job creation — and West Virginia always needs more of that. The plant is expected to bring up to 200 new jobs by the end of this year and up to 900 jobs total within two years, once full production starts. Employment opportunities are always a nearly instantaneous economy booster. When local economies thrive, the whole state benefits.

But GreenPower’s product has a much broader — even global — impact.

Its all-electric school buses aim to be zero-emission, which will help in the fight against climate change. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for 29% of America’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Anything we can do to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants we release into the atmosphere ultimately helps us all in the long run. Even small steps — like using electric buses and cars — lead to progress.

We hope that once production starts and the electric buses start rolling off the line, West Virginia will begin integrating these green vehicles into its transportation fleet. After all, if we produce them, we should use them.

We wouldn’t expect the state or individual counties to throw away perfectly good gas- or diesel-fueled buses. However, as older buses retire, we’d like to see them be replaced with GreenPower’s West Virginia-made electric buses.

The secondary benefit of adopting electric buses statewide is it will increase the need for EV chargers and charging stations. These buses have a 150-mile range, and most personal-use EVs can go up to 300 miles on a single charge, which, for city driving, is perfectly fine. But West Virginia’s towns are far flung, and we need reliable transportation to get from one place to another. The limited range and even more limited charging opportunities have kept many Mountain State drivers from switching to electric cars.

We hope the uniform use of electric buses across the state will encourage further investment in creating charging stations and even placing them in more rural areas. This, in turn, would make it easier for West Virginians to make the switch to all-electric or hybrid vehicles.

Too often, necessary infrastructure (think broadband as well as EV chargers) never reaches the places that need it most, because it’s not profitable to build there. But if the need is great enough, the state can make sure it gets done.