Robert Garcia, maintenance manager for GreenPower’s final assembly plant near Porterville installs traction motors into one of the company’s all-electric transit buses being made for the city of Porterville.
Written by David Castellon
Brendan Riley hoped to have a new, 150,000-square-foot bus-manufacturing facility up and running near the Porterville Municipal Airport this summer.
That’s not going to happen, Riley, president of Vancouver, Canada-based GreenPower Motor Company, Inc., said earlier this week.
“We’re still getting the foundation poured,” he said, adding that internal processes to apply for permits and generate the various reports needed to submit to the city have taken longer than expected.
The Valley’s “building boom” is adding to the delay, making it difficult for the contractor overseeing the construction to hire some already busy subcontractors and extending the lead time needed to obtain some building materials and heavy equipment, Riley.
In the meantime, GreenPower has leased two neighboring hangars on the airport grounds and converted them into manufacturing sites where final assembly of the all-electric busses the company makes occurs.
But the company has a backlog of 143 busses on order in the U.S. and Canada and expectations of 200 orders coming in this year alone, which included this week’s announcement that Creative Bus Sales, the U.S.’s largest bus dealer, has ordered 100 busses, ranging from GreenPower’s 25-foot shuttle busses to its 45-foot-long double deckers.
“We’ve got time to deliver these buses,” but due to the plant construction delays, the company needs more assembly space than the 30,000 square feet it has available in the two airport hangars, Riley said.
So GreenPower has been looking at other, larger sites in Porterville that could serve at least temporarily as manufacturing sites where primary bus construction could occur, while final assembly would continue at the two hangars, said GreenPower’s president, adding that he expects to reach an agreement to lease a new building next week.
He said the hangars will not work for primary construction of busses because that work requires the use of cranes, which will not fit in those buildings.
The new site would have room for at least one crane that would be driven in, as there would be no plans to significantly modify the leased building to install a crane inside it, Riley said.
He said he hopes to have that building up and operating by September. And the extra work will require extra workers, an expansion from the current cadre of 10 to about 100.
If the leased building works out well and the number of electric buses ordered continues to grow at the rate they have, it’s possible GreenPower may need that extra space even after the new plant is built, so extending the lease term is possible, Riley said.