The little yellow bus goes green

Demand for clean and energy-saving technology grows as electric bills skyrocket

BY KATHY KAHN

John Phraner, president of Tans Tech, shows RBA vice president Roger Schreiber and Green Council chairman Michael Shilale how mini-buses are built incorporating green technology and safety.
John Phraner, president of Trans Tech, shows RBA vice president Roger Schreiber and Green Council chairman Michael Shilale how mini-buses are built incorporating green technology and safety.

That little yellow school bus may soon have a “green” emblem emblazoned on its front bumper.

The Green Council, founded by the Rockland Business Association eight years ago and actively chaired by LEED-certified architect Michael Shilale of New City, really on Tuesday visited Warwick’s farmland to inspect the latest technology in public transportation: the electric school bus.

The 20-30 seat electric mini-bus being readied to roll onto the production line at Trans Tech, Inc. can get 90 miles out of one full charge—enough to make the bus route at a fraction of the cost of diesel—and keeping the environment a lot cleaner. The electric buses also have a longer life span than their diesel counterparts.

Members of the Rockland Business Association’s Green Council and others from the state and county check out electric chassis for new mini-bus being built in Warwick.
Members of the Rockland Business Association’s Green Council and others from the state and county check out electric chassis for new mini-bus being built in Warwick.

Phraner told Green Council and NYSERDA members on the manufacturing tour that mini-buses are becoming more and more popular among school districts and municipalities and the demand has increased with each year since he’s come on board with the company. Since 2012, Trans Tech’s orders have jumped from 342 in that year to over 600 since the beginning of 2014. Now, Phraner and his team are focusing on perfecting the electric version of the minibus.

-Here’s a logo you may be seeing more of when the school bus pulls up!
-Here’s a logo you may be seeing more of when the school bus pulls up!

“The demand is there,” Phraner told the Green Council. “Our mini-buses are 100 percent American-made buses—you’ll find them in many school districts in Rockland and around the Hudson Valley. Many want electric, but we’re going to do our homework before they start rolling off the production line. Others companies have built them but have encountered problems…we’re going to roll out this new fleet with no problems…we are making sure we get it right the first time.” Phraner expects you’ll be seeing them soon.

Here’s a dashboard that may not look familiar—it’s the kind you’ll find on an electric bus.
Here’s a dashboard that may not look familiar—it’s the kind you’ll find on an electric bus.

And there’s no time like the present, said Shilale. “Green products are becoming prevalent, especially with electric prices skyrocketing.” Both Con Ed and Orange & Rockland customers will be seeing their bills go up—so making home and office more efficient by cutting down on energy consumption while staying comfortable is a priority.

Trans Tech has a Sustainability Compliance Officer, “just like many Fortune 500 companies have,” said Shilale. “The SPO person is constantly keeping track of how to save the company money on energy bills, on keeping the building earth-friendly and cutting down on waste, from going paperless to recycling. That’s why we started the Green Council…we hope that many small business people will see the value of learning more about the programs out there to make their business model greener and keep costs down.”

Out of the RBA’s membership, “Perhaps 50 of our member companies are Green Council members,” said Shilale, “and about half of them attend our monthly meetings. Our vision is to educate and advocate, and there are so many benefits for businesses. We are talking about a $60 billion industry—every company is looking for ways to make their product more sustainable—from flushable wipes that really disintegrate to weatherizing businesses and homes to keep fuel costs down—times are changing, we need to change with them—it’s practical, cost effective and though many don’t realize it, affordable…sit down with an energy consultant, do the math and you’ll see for yourself.”

Shilale’s architectural firm just completed a $7 million energy-savings construction project for the North Rockland School District. “It’s saving them a half-million a year and will pay for itself…but you don’t have to have a ‘big ticket’ job to save money. Just putting in an energy-efficient oil/gas burner can save homeowner money. It might cost a little more up front, but in the long run, it ends up saving them money and recouping the original price!

“Our local companies can benefit from having O&R or NYSERDA come in and do an energy analysis for them. There are many programs out there that can help save money and arrange grants and low-interest loans to make your business energy-efficient,” said Shilale.

The RBA’s Green Council is planning an eight night lecture series in fall, 2014. “Every night, we’ll have an expert come and talk about a specific industry—architecture; solar energy-transportation-water-we’re looking to get all Rockland businesses involved. The lecture series will be free for every Rockland business owner to attend….there will be more information to come as we formulate the series.”

Anyone who wants to attend a Green Council meeting or learn more about the lecture series, the Green Council awards and its upcoming “Go Green” mixer can check the RBA website (www.rocklandbusiness.org) and check it out. “If you’re not an RBA member, come and see what we offer,” said Shilale. “It’s one of the benefits of membership. It’s also in everyone’s best interest to learn how they can save their company money and be more productive.”

Simon Burgess, solar advisor for GeoscapeSolar, agreed. “There is grant money out there for solar paneling and other cost-saving measures companies and private homeowners can take advantage of. With the cost of electricity skyrocketing, it just makes sense to see what you can do to lower your bills and in the process, go ‘green’ and do it smarter. If you are a private owner and sell your house, your buyer picks up where you left off….it’s also a wonderful incentive if you are selling or buying.”

Hey, want to make your neighbors green with envy? Contact NYSERDA, Orange & Rockland, Con Edison or one of the RBA’s solar companies to learn how you can save money on your electric bill. And keep an eye out for that “electric” bus logo. It may be rolling down the street sooner than you think!