Brunswick (Maine) School Department secured $156,240 in grants from the state’s Volkswagen settlement funds to purchase two Blue Bird Vision propane buses. - Photo courtesy Brunswick School Department

Brunswick (Maine) School Department secured $156,240 in grants from the state’s Volkswagen settlement funds to purchase two Blue Bird Vision propane buses.

Photo courtesy Brunswick School Department

Brunswick (Maine) School Department has added two new propane buses to its fleet.

The Blue Bird Vision propane buses arrived at the district on Oct. 21 and hit the road for regular school routes on Oct. 30, Michelle Caron, Brunswick School Department’s director of transportation, told School Bus Fleet.

The buses were purchased using two $78,120 grants from the state’s Volkswagen (VW) settlement funds, totaling to $156,240, according to Caron. Since each bus cost $105,000, she said the district backed the remaining balance of $53,760.

Before applying for the grants, Caron said she traveled to Michigan about two years ago to attend a Roush CleanTech tour to learn more about propane buses.

“The tour really made me realize the feasibility of propane and how we could add them to our fleet,” Caron said.

Brunswick School Department currently has a fleet of 28 school buses, most of which are fueled by gasoline. By incorporating propane, Caron said the school district can save significantly on maintenance costs, cold-weather starts, and oil changes. She also said that Brunswick’s current tailpipe emissions would be reduced, producing near-zero nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions at 0.02 NOx.

“Our bus drivers love the [propane] buses. They’re very quiet and you don’t have the engine roaring, which usually elevates the students’ noise level on the bus,” Caron said. “We definitely plan to add more propane buses to our fleet based on our funding and budgeting process.”

According to new research from the Propane Education and Research Council, more than 20,000 propane buses were in operation at schools nationwide at the start of the school year in 2020. The council reported this as a 10% increase from 2019 vehicle numbers, and also deemed this as the first full school year with propane buses in use by more than 1,000 school districts or contractors.

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