RENO, Nev. — Citing advantages in fuel costs, emissions and safety, Blue Bird and its partners undraped the Next Generation Propane-Powered Vision here on Tuesday.
As previously reported, Blue Bird collaborated with Ford and ROUSH CleanTeach on the school bus, which they say provides fuel savings of 30 to 40 percent on average compared to diesel counterparts.
The Type C bus is built on a Blue Bird chassis and powered by a Ford 6.8-liter V-10 engine with the ROUSH CleanTech liquid propane autogas fuel system. It offers 362 horsepower and 457 pounds of torque.
After the unveiling, which drew a throng of attendees at the STN Expo, SBF Executive Editor Thomas McMahon sat down with executives from the three companies to discuss the features of the Next Generation Propane-Powered Vision.
Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird, said that one of the main objectives in developing the bus was “to make sure we have a reliable product. School buses last for 12 years or more — in some cases 20 years. So it has to have longevity. It has to have been tried and tested out there in the market.”
To that end, George Weber, president and CEO of Ford Component Sales, noted that the Ford 6.8-liter engine that the bus uses has already been in service in numerous trucks.
“It’s a fantastic engine,” Weber said. “It is tried and true. It has millions of miles behind it.
Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech, said that while his company has been known for “making things go fast” in the auto racing world, the focus here is on fuel efficiency — while still providing top performance.
Mouw also pointed to safety benefits: The bus has quarter-inch thick steel fuel tanks for puncture resistance, and propane itself has a narrow range of flammability compared to diesel or gas, he said.
Horlock said that for operations that have been running the first generation of the Propane-Powered Vision, a key benefit is its affordability.
“Another thing we hear is the drivers love this bus — it’s quiet,” he added. “And the tailpipe is clean, so it’s great for the environment.”
Horlock said that Blue Bird would begin taking orders for the new Propane-Powered Vision after the trade show, and production is slated to begin in March. The model that was unveiled at the show will travel around the country to Blue Bird dealers, which will hold ride-and-drive events.