Management

IC Bus Exec Trish Reed Talks Propane, School Bus Sales

Thomas McMahon
Posted on February 25, 2015

Trish Reed joined IC Bus at a significant time for the school bus manufacturer. As Reed took over the role of vice president and general manager in late August, IC Bus was preparing to unveil its new propane school bus.

The bus, which debuted at the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) trade show in Kansas City, Missouri, in November, is the manufacturer’s first to be fueled by propane autogas. It will be powered by a Power Solutions International (PSI) 8.8-liter propane engine.

The propane CE Series school bus is slated to be ready for delivery in the summer, in time to hit the road for the 2015-16 school year.

In a recent interview with SBF, Reed discussed the new propane model, her experience with pupil transportation customers and the state of school bus sales.

Propane benefits
Reed calls propane a “logical choice” for many school bus operations.

“The local infrastructure and availability and the low cost of the fueling stations seem to be what makes propane an easier choice for our customers at this point in time,” she says.

Referring specifically to IC Bus’ new propane model, Reed cites its “diesel-like performance” as an attractive feature for school bus operations. The PSI 8.8-liter engine is engineered for high torque at low speed, with a rating of 565 lb.-ft. at 1,500 rpm. That can come in handy for stop-and-start applications, enabling quick acceleration and strong hill-climbing capability.

Reed points to other benefits of the propane engine for school bus drivers as well as for shop staff.

“We’ve had customers visit our engine partner, and they talk about the [reduced] noise. For the driver, that makes it much easier to hear what’s going on, especially in loading and unloading,” Reed says. “Also, there’s the lower cost of maintaining a propane engine versus a diesel.” For example, revving is reduced, which in turn reduces engine wear and oil usage.

Alternative-fuel vehicles are a fairly small percentage of the school bus market, with diesel still making up the vast majority. However, IC Bus sees more growth ahead for “green” buses.

“We forecast [alternative-fuel school buses] getting above 15% of the industry by the time we come around to 2017,” Reed says. “There are a lot of variables in that, like the current dynamic of fuel prices. But I think it’s good to offer our customers an alternative to diesel.

“The feedback we’ve gotten on our purpose-built propane bus is that some customers might have been looking at [propane] but didn’t want to sacrifice diesel performance. On our option, you don’t have to sacrifice that.”

IC Bus’ CE Series school bus (pictured) will be available in a propane version in time for the 2015-16 school year. Reed points to the propane model’s “diesel-like performance” as a key feature.
IC Bus’ CE Series school bus (pictured) will be available in a propane version in time for the 2015-16 school year. Reed points to the propane model’s “diesel-like performance” as a key feature.

Related Topics: alternative fuels, IC Bus, propane

Thomas McMahon Executive Editor
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