Alternative Fuels

District cuts costs by running propane-powered buses

Posted on October 10, 2011

ZEELAND, Mich. — Zeeland Public Schools has been powering its buses with environmentally friendly fuels for the past eight years. Since 2003, the district has used biodiesel to power the majority of its school buses, and more recently, officials became interested in the advantages of propane.
In addition to learning that propane burns cleaner than diesel, thereby emitting less particulate matter, school officials found propane to be more cost effective than biodiesel, and to perform better as well.

Zeeland Public Schools bought nine new Blue Bird Propane-Powered Vision school buses with CleanFuel USA’s liquid propane injection system from Holland Bus Co. in August 2010.

The district received a grant to fund half the cost of the new school buses through the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. Officials worked with AmeriGas, a partner in the grant, to supply propane for the new buses. AmeriGas installed a refueling station on site at the district and provided officials with the option of buying the refueling system in the future.

Transportation Director David Meeuwsen said the school district averages a savings of 80 cents per gallon with propane versus biodiesel fuel. Additionally, the district is hoping to take advantage of the 50-cent-per-gallon government tax credit available for the use of propane.

“Once we apply for this tax credit, we approximate fuel savings of 30 percent, contributing to a major cost reduction,” Meeuwsen explained.

Zeeland Public Schools’ technicians were trained by CleanFuel USA at Holland Bus Co. on how to maintain the pressurized propane system on the buses.

“The technicians are impressed by how much longer the oil stays clean in the bus,” Meeuwsen said. “Based on our oil analysis program, we anticipate the buses fueled by propane autogas will need oil changes only every 20,000 to 30,000 miles. Also, the filters won’t have to be changed as frequently as the diesel-fueled buses.”

Meeuwsen also said that his bus drivers are enjoying transporting the district’s 9,000 students who receive bus service in the propane-powered vehicles because they “warm up faster, have greater power and are quieter than the diesel buses.”

Based on the positive impact of running the propane-powered buses, Meeuwsen has had conversations about expanding the use of propane in the district’s fleet.

“The buses fueled by propane autogas fit into the environmental standard we are trying to accomplish here at Zeeland,” he said.

Related Topics: Blue Bird Corp., cutting costs, propane

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