Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Dan Hust | Democrat

John Conway, right, may be best known as Sullivan County’s historian, but every Thursday he’s now a professor at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, teaching 18 mechanics, fleet managers, purchase agents and other interested guys the history and theories behind electric vehicles. John’s brother Joe will soon lead the class in applying those principles directly to modern-day gas and diesel-powered vehicles.

Catching, then riding the wave of the future

By Dan Hust
LOCH SHELDRAKE — April 6, 2010 — Ken Engle and Rich Nead are guys who spend most every day keeping Rolling V Bus Corporation’s huge fleet in working order.
They’re well-versed in the mechanics of the gas and diesel engines that power these yellow beasts of burden.
So what are these guys – and 16 of their coworkers – doing inside a Sullivan County Community College classroom this spring?
Learning about a future without gas and diesel.
“With the way the economy is,” says Engle, Rolling V’s fleet manager, “I think electric vehicles are going to take off.”
“I think it’s something a lot of guys should learn,” agrees Nead, the shop foreman.
So Engle, Nead and their crew are spending three hours every Thursday night learning the ins and outs of a technology older than its internal combustion counterpart.
“Between 1832 and 1839, Robert Anderson of Scotland invented the first crude electric carriage,” Professor John Conway informed the class last Thursday.
Conway and his brother Joe founded Buzz Equipment Company in Woodridge, which specializes in electric utility vehicles.
Conway himself specializes in history, and on Thursday he guided the men through the 19th and early 20th centuries, when electrically powered automobiles seemed to be gaining on gas and diesel machines.
By 1900, in fact, 28 percent of all vehicles on U.S. roads were electric.
But then came the electric starter, which removed the need to hand-crank a gas-powered car. Soon, electric cars – slower, less powerful, lacking nationwide infrastructure – fell out of favor.
Now, noted Conway with some irony Thursday, they’re back for all the same reasons that made them popular 100 years ago.
“[They provide] a smooth, quiet, secure ride,” he told the class.
By then, however, they already knew that. The Thursday before, the Conway brothers had brought over some of the electric cars they sell at Joe’s Kantrowitz Brothers Garage in Woodridge.
The hands-on classes won’t be ending soon, either. Once this five-week course is through, another will begin – with the goal of converting a 10-year-old Rolling V-donated school bus from gas to electric.
“I think everyone agrees it’s a good thing to try to decrease emissions and pollution,” noted Conway – especially for children.
Mike Friedman, who’s taking the course and recently joined Buzz Equipment as its marketer, does indeed agree.
“I think there comes a time with us having to reduce our dependency on foreign oil,” he remarks. “... I hope it takes off, I really do.”
The Conway brothers aren’t waiting around, that’s for sure. John said he and Joe are already pondering offering a third course on solar-powered charging stations for electric cars.
“Going green is going to come in rather quickly,” predicts Engle, who carries a solar panel with him on camping trips to power equipment. “This is the next step.… We need to get into this early on and learn the basics now.”
For more information or to sign up for these courses – which are non-credit and feature no grading or testing – contact SCCC at 434-5750, ext. 4398.
For more on electric vehicles, contact Buzz Equipment at 798-5407 or log on to

top of page  |  home  |  archives