Bus maker announces groundbreaking
While GreenPower Motor Company has been planning and designing its assembly plant here, it has also begun operations in a hangar across the street from where the company will assemble electric-power buses.
GreenPower Chairman Fraser Atkinson said Tuesday the company has leased a large hangar from the Tule River Indian Tribe and has begun some limited operations there until their plant is finished about a year from now. Work in that hangar, however, will accelerate greatly after the June 2 groundbreaking because the company is moving its final assembly plant in Chino to Porterville and will begin final assembly of its electric-powered buses.
Last year, the company purchased 9.3 acres from the City of Porterville on Hope Drive at the city’s airport and has been going through the development stage of that plant which is expected to turn out buses by 2018. In the meantime, the hangar will be used for final assemble on a number of buses, including the first of 10 buses on order by the City of Porterville.
Atkinson said that first bus will be a demonstration model to see what modifications will be needed before they deliver the other nine buses in 2018. He hopes to deliver that first bus this fall.
The city has received an $11 million grant to transform its entire transit fleet to all-electric-powered buses as a demonstration for the state. GreenPower has been given the contract to build those buses.
Atkinson said the groundbreaking on the 150,000 square foot plant will be at 11 a.m. on Friday, June 2, will also include an open house where they will display several of their buses, including their signature double-decker electric bus which can carry as many as 100 passengers, and tell the company’s story.
Atkinson is also excited to show off the newest line of buses they have, the Synapse 72 Type D school bus which has been approved by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) for $95,000 for each bus sold in the state.
“I think we’ve got a build we can do a lot with,” he said of the school bus that seats up to 72 passengers. He said of the bus, “It’s a modern, modern looking bus and a lot safer.”
The big news is the company plans to close its Chino operation next month and transfer everything to Porterville which will become the headquarters for the Canadian-owned company.
“We’re looking to get a more executive presence in Porterville,” he said, adding employees in Chino will transfer to Porterville where they will begin to do final assembly and some testing of buses.
“Additional folks will be hired, probably beginning in August,” he added. Company officials have said approximately 75 people will be hired at the start, but they expect that number to grow as they ramp up.
Jason Ridenour, development associate with the city, said, “we’re very excited to see the progress and we look forward to the development of the site.” He added the city is looking forward to the jobs being created.
The city had an economic-impact study done not long after the company announced it was coming to Porterville and that study by Impact Data Source found the plant would generate 576 direct and indirect jobs over a 10-year period.
The company has been in the hangar for some time and already has been doing testing in the area, driving some city routes with an electric-powered bus. On Wednesday, three buses were at the hangar.
The plant will be constructed in three phases, beginning with final assembly and then the paint area and initial assembly area. By starting with the end of the line, the company will be able to bring partially assembled buses to Porterville and then turn out a final product.
Atkinson said they hope to begin infrastructure work (grading of the lot) almost immediately and then begin construction in a few weeks.
“The first phase isn’t going to take long,” he said of the work, adding, “Things will move forward from there.”
Also, he said they are trying to utilize as many local companies as possible. They have contracted with 4 Creeks for engineering services.
Atkinson said the plant will be U-shaped and constructed in four modules, one being the office and the other three for assembly. He said there will be multiple assembly lines, giving them 1,500 linear feet of space and 16 assembly points. Buses of any size, including the double-decker and school buses, will be assembled here.
GreenPower offers a range of electric powered buses deploying electric drive and battery technologies with a lightweight chassis and low floor or high floor body. For more information, go to www.greenpowerbus.com.