GREENVILLE — President Joe Biden told workers in Proterra's electric bus factory that they are doing work that will save the environment as he made a virtual stop to promote his massive infrastructure improvement plan.
The company took the president on a "virtual tour" of the bus-making plant off Interstate 85 on the edge of the city limits on April 20. Proterra started its first manufacturing facility and headquarters in Greenville in 2010 before relocating headquarters to the Bay Area.
Biden has pitched converting the nation's fleet of 500,000 gasoline-powered school buses to zero-emission models by 2030, among other big-ticket green energy investments as part of his $2 trillion American Jobs Plan.
On Tuesday, he told workers via video conference about how he supported himself through law school by driving a bus. He sees electric buses as key to a better environment that doesn't have children breathing diesel fumes.
The infrastructure plan, which the administration claims will seek bipartisan support, would spend $25 billion on zero-emission vehicles and $20 billion on electric school buses.
Biden told Proterra workers, who demonstrated the manufacture of buses and use of electric batteries, that America needed to keep up with advancing the technology on a global stage.
"We've got to own the future here," he said. "Right now, we're way behind China, but you guys are going to get us in the game."
Proterra CEO Jack Allen, who conducted most of the tour, said the company supports the infrastructure plan as commercial vehicles find themselves at "an inflection point." The commitment to electric vehicles would add more than 2,000 assembly workers alone, Allen said.
Over the past decade, Proterra has seen its fortunes rise and fall. Not long after it decided to locate to Greenville, the company faced a funding crisis but was rescued by public and private investors.
Mayor Knox White opened the event and described Greenville's commitment early on to a green energy future.
Afterward, White told The Post and Courier that Greenville recruited the company to diversify the city’s manufacturing presence. While the company has had its “ups and downs, it’s been a big success the past few years,” White said.
“It’s the American answer to the competition in China,” he said.
Natalie Walters contributed to this story.