Cabell County Schools Superintendent Ryan Saxe with the GreenPower BEAST all-electric,...

Cabell County Schools Superintendent Ryan Saxe with the GreenPower BEAST all-electric, purpose-built school bus. Joining him are Rhonda Smiley, president of the Cabell County Board of Education; Kim Cooper, assistant superintendent; Dan Gleason, transportation director; GreenPower Vice President Mark Nestlen, and GreenPower’s dealer representative Steve Ellis.

Photo: GreenPower Motor Company

The first phase of GreenPower Motor Company’s electric school bus pilot project in West Virginia is complete, and recently released data suggests reason for optimism.

“It’s exciting to see first-hand the positive reactions from students, parents, drivers, and educators as the first all-electric, zero-emission school buses transported kids in the state of West Virginia,” said Fraser Atkinson, CEO and chairman of GreenPower. “It was equally rewarding to document the performance these purpose-built vehicles delivered.”

For six weeks, three GreenPower Type D BEAST school buses were deployed on daily routes in Cabell, Kanawha, and Mercer counties. The buses traveled through differing terrain and weather conditions in both urban and rural routes. The BEAST also saw action after school, hauling football teams and gear to games.

Carol Hall, a school bus driver involved in the pilot program, said she was impressed by the vehicle’s comfort, handling, and drivability.

“The bus handled as good as, if not better than, our current diesel school buses, with a turning radius far superior to our current Type C buses,” Hall said.

The first phase of the pilot project covered more than 5,400 miles, carrying hundreds of students without incident, GreenPower reported. Battery consumption ranged from 1.1 to 1.5 miles per each percent of state of charge (SOC).

“The BEAST school buses performed in the pilots just as we would have expected them to,” Atkinson said. “School districts saw between 110 and 150 miles per full charge, depending on conditions and operator tendencies, allowing them in some cases to only charge the bus overnight.”

The second round of the project already is underway, with BEAST school buses rolling in Grant, Monongalia, and Ohio counties. The company’s Type A school bus was added to the project in Clay County for this round.