The Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Ohio’s second-largest school system, plans to roll out 49 Blue Bird Propane Vision buses this fall after it completes construction of an on-site autogas fueling station.
The district is replacing 12- to 13-year-old diesel buses with the new propane school buses that officials attest are more economical and environmentally sound.
CMSD purchased the Type C Propane Vision school buses (pictured) from Cardinal Bus Sales, a Lima-based Blue Bird dealer, which will deliver them over the next two weeks. Each bus is equipped with a ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas fuel system, while 20 are also outfitted with wheelchair lifts.
District administrators said it selected propane autogas because of its short return on investment, ease of fueling and low infrastructure cost as well as the unexpected benefit of lower electricity bills. They estimate that they will save about $50,000 in electrical costs for powering block heaters to start their diesel buses during harsh winters. Propane Vision buses start up in temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, Blue Bird stated.
“Fueling buses with propane autogas offers the best total cost of ownership, giving school districts a viable alternative solution … slashing their operating costs and lowering their carbon footprint,” said Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech.
On average, propane autogas costs up to 50 percent less than diesel, according to ROUSH and Blue Bird, who partnered in developing the Propane Vision. They added that autogas infrastructure is also less expensive to install than other conventional and alternative transportation fuels. The CMSD Transportation Department fuels all of their yellow buses at their bus depot.
Mike Taylor, director of autogas business development at the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), told STN that Blue Bird sold 2,800 of the total 3,000 propane school buses vended last year, making it the clear market leader. He also said that, currently, about 10 percent of all new school buses sold annually are propane powered, including Type A buses from Collins and Type C's from Thomas Built Buses. Thomas recently announced that its new propane-autogas Saf-T-Liner C2 would go into full production early next month.
Taylor noted that Broward County Public Schools in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., just completed the second-largest order by a school district of Type C propane school buses, acquiring 98 new Propane-Powered Visions.
"Mesa Public Schools in Arizona and STA also own a substantial number of Blue Bird Propane Visions," he said.
Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird, added: “Like many districts, Cleveland Schools did the research and realized that propane autogas is the best choice for reducing fuel and maintenance costs while providing cleaner air for the community."