The BEAST Brings VIPs To Fox Lane For A Sweet Ride

Originally published in The Patch

BEDFORD, NY — The Hudson Valley's elected leaders took a mythic BEAST (Battery Electric Automotive School Transportation) to school in the hope of creating a brighter, cleaner future for students.

New York State Senators Pete Harckham, Shelley Mayer, Tim Kennedy, Anna Kaplan and the Bedford Central School District, in conjunction with the GreenPower Motor Company, hosted a demonstration on Monday of the latest zero emission, fully electric school bus at Fox Lane High School.

The demonstration gave attendees an opportunity to learn more about zero emission electric-powered school buses. The remarkable vehicle's life cycle, range, cost and maintenance were the subject of discussion, but an opportunity to take a test ride on GreenPower Motor's new 90-passenger, Class 8, Type D school bus known as The BEAST was the highlight of the day.

"To meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals in New York's The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, we will have to take serious action, including transitioning to zero emission vehicles," Harckham explained. "School buses, which run mostly on diesel fuel, are a top cause of air pollution. This demonstration offered a lot of information and answered important questions about electric battery school buses, which are certainly on their way to wider use."

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019 has set two key goals: limit statewide greenhouse gases to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 and 85% percent by 2050; and achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions across New York State's economy.

"That's why zero emissions vehicles, including trucks and buses, are on their way," said Harckham, who introduced and helped enact a law last year requiring new sales of passenger cars and trucks in New York to be zero emissions by 2035. Earlier this year, Governor Kathy Hochul proposed that the entire school bus fleet in the state be entirely electric by 2035.

Right now, there are more school buses in the U.S. than commercial buses, trains and air travel services combined. Each school day, about 24 million children ride on over 480,000 school buses. More than 9o percent of the buses run on diesel fuel, a known carcinogen, and school age children are exposed to 5 to 15 times more air toxins than the rest of our population. Annually, school buses produce 3,000 tons of cancer-causing soot and 95,000 tons of smog-causing compounds and particulates.

"We see the effects of climate change every day. We cannot wait to address it," Mayer said. "Thank you to GreenPower Motor Company for demonstrating what a zero emission, fully electric school bus could look like in our community. I look forward to working with Senators Pete Harckham, Tim Kennedy and Anna Kaplan, our colleagues, education stakeholders and Governor Hochul on an approach to transition to electric school buses across New York."

While there have been improvements, air pollution is still a problem in more populated areas of New York. The American Lung Association's latest report card shows that air pollution is putting 168,000 seniors, nearly 90,000 people (including 17,000 children) with asthma and 458,000 people of color at risk in Westchester County, according to the organizers of Monday's demonstration.

The group that gathered together expressed hope that fleets made up of EV/zero emissions buses will signal a sea change in the world we leave to the next generation.

"GreenPower's BEAST delivers what Sen. Harckham, his colleagues in the New York State Senate, and Gov. Kathy Hochul have all been pushing for: zero emission, all-electric school buses that can safely transport children to and from school," GreenPower Ryne Shetterly told those gathered. "As we further expand our production throughout the East Coast, school districts can look forward to a steady supply of safe, purpose-built vehicles as they electrify their fleets."

Attendees at the electric bus demonstration included school district officials, local residents and students, as well environmental and climate change advocates from groups such as Bedford 2030, Croton 100, Mothers Out Front, Hudson Valley Electric Auto Association and Yorktown 100.

"Electrifying our local district fleets is of utmost importance," Bedford 2030 Executive Director Midge Iorio said. "Transitioning our school buses off of polluting fossil fuels will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, address health concerns, and it will send a message to our children that we are taking steps to combat climate change, to ensure a healthier future."