U.S. Labor Secretary visits Livermore's 134-year-old bus manufacturer

On Wednesday, the nation's newest labor secretary visited one of the nation's oldest bus manufacturers in Livermore, looking at the future of clean transit.

It was an event with a very political twist not unexpected in major election years.

The U.S. Labor Secretary visited Livermore's 135-year-old Gillig, the unionized bus manufacturing company, as part of the Biden Administration's re-election road show. 

This time, the emphasis was on investing in infrastructure, building green technology, fighting climate change, and growing the middle class. 

During the carefully choreographed and controlled event, reporters were not permitted into the factory, but the company supplied video of Acting Secretary Julie Su touring the facility. 

"We see the transition to more electric buses and zero emissions vehicles as part and parcel of creating a country where working people to do well," she said. [The] president's infrastructure investments are about not just roads and bridges, it's also about a coast-to-coast charging network."

Gillig's CEO and President Derek Maunus made this point about this 134-year-old company: "What started as a carriage repair shop in San Francisco in 1890, has evolved into what today is the dealing transit bus manufacturer in the United States."

Gillig uses all kinds of propulsion systems, from diesel to hybrids to pure electrics. Total average daily output: seven buses a day; decreasing to four a day when making the more complex pure electrics. 

Seven of nine U.S. EV bus manufacturers are in California. Electric vehicles perform less well in cold climates and the nation's electric power grid needs to be more robust to support all EVs. 

"All of that needs to happen. It will not happen overnight but, we are laser-focused on making it happen and we're seeing a shift. There's a lot going to R&D for exactly those kinds of questions," said Su.

In other words, though Gillig and the other EV bus makers prove it can be done, can it be done on the grand scale transit needs to switch over to anytime soon?