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November 10, 2011  |   Comments (3)   |   Post a comment

Ariz. district expects big savings in jump to propane


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Mesa Public Schools took delivery of its first propane buses last week. Pictured are representatives from the district, Canyon State Bus Sales, Micro Bird, Roush and Ferrellgas.

Mesa Public Schools took delivery of its first propane buses last week. Pictured are representatives from the district, Canyon State Bus Sales, Micro Bird, Roush and Ferrellgas.

MESA, Ariz. — With an eye on reducing its dependence on diesel, Mesa Public Schools has acquired 27 propane school buses.

Ron Latko, director of transportation and vehicle maintenance, told SBF that he estimates the district will save more than $105,000 in fuel costs this year with the propane buses, which are the first for the district and possibly the state.

While propane gets fewer miles per gallon than diesel, Latko calculated that with propane's significantly lower price and a federal reimbursement of 50 cents per gallon, the alternative fuel will be about 25.1 cents per mile cheaper than diesel.

"I felt boxed in a corner when it came to diesel," Latko said, citing rising prices and the addition of equipment to meet the EPA's emissions standards.

Mesa, which has a fleet of 509 school buses — the largest in Arizona — purchased 21 Micro Bird propane Type As and six Blue Bird propane Type Cs from Canyon State Bus Sales. All are powered by a 6.8 liter Ford engine with a Roush propane fueling system. Ferrellgas is supplying the district with an 18,000-gallon propane tank and infrastructure.

The first wave of the propane bus order was delivered to the district last week. All of the buses are expected to go into service this month.

"Mesa should be commended for being creative in such a poor economy for not only saving taxpayers money but cleaning up the environment," said Tom Hartman, sales manager at Canyon State Bus Sales.

Beyond the lower fuel and maintenance costs of the propane buses, Latko noted that reducing reliance on foreign oil was a factor in the district's decision.

"Ninety percent of the propane comes from right here in the U.S.A.," he said. "We take it very seriously when it comes to managing our resources — financially and environmentally."

 


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Read more about: Blue Bird Corp., emissions, Micro Bird Inc., propane, Type A/small buses

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The $.50 per gallon federal reimbursment is the part that makes this work. Mesa USD has found a way to make people in other states pay for part of the cost of transporting their students. This is the case with almost all alternative energy technology. Take away the ability to cost shift part of your operating expense to someone else and you find that these technologies are not sufficiently developed to pay back. It is a shell game. I tar myself with this same brush. I have a 5.5 kW wind turbine at my home. The only reason it pays out is because their was a 30% federal tax credit available to offset the cost of building it.

McMWest    |    Nov 11, 2011 08:32 AM

This should prove to be a good test for the rest of us who seem to think switching the typw of fuel we use will be costly to begin such a change. If the cost savings is not immediately realized then administrative who ultimately votes upon such a switch over may not be ready to do so if there is little in print to actually consider in a board meeting. Keep reporting on propane buses please.

Dan Luttrell    |    Nov 11, 2011 05:04 AM

We have had 18 propane buses for the last two years we have enjoyed them very much. It is very easy for drivers to fuel them and we have never had a fuel spill since getting the system.

rob    |    Nov 10, 2011 05:58 PM

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