Yellow, going green: new school buses to run on propane

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – It’s a first in Alabama: Mobile County Public Schools has added 30 propane buses to its fleet.

Superintendent Martha Peek said, “Right now, propane is very forward thinking: safe, economically sound, and environmentally astute, also.”

Peek said switching to propane makes sense.

“With the amount of fuel that we use every year and the miles that are traveled, this is a way we can ensure maximum efficiency financially,” Peek said.

More Expensive – Up Front

In up-front costs, the propane buses are more expensive. Diesel buses cost around $76,000, while propane buses are $8,000 more. Transportation Director Pat Mitchell said that cost is quickly made up in the price of fuel.

He told us, “Right now were spending between a $1.25 to $1.30 a gallon on propane, versus $3.40 for diesel. Right there, you see a tremendous difference.”

Other Differences

A green swoosh near the top and a green propane sticker on the side are only subtle cues that the new buses are powered by propane. On the inside you won’t notice a whole lot of differences either, but one thing that is different: they are a lot quieter than the old-school diesels.

Propane school buses ride-along
Members of the media and others ride along in a propane powered school bus. The Mobile County Public School system will add several of the buses to its fleet, officials said in a press conference on Thursday, August 21, 2014.

Beyond cheaper fuel and quieter operation, the buses are also cleaner, emitting 40 percent less pollution. Alabama Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey took a spin in one of the buses. She told us systems around the state will be looking to Mobile County.

“It starts with us and the local leaders taking charge for a significant difference for stewardship and efficiencies. Now, that money that was going to buy fuel can be redirected to other student services,” Ivey said.

More To Come?

On any given day, MCPSS runs more than 630 buses. Mobile County Schools will be collecting data on the 30 propane buses this year. If they help save money, more will be bought in the future as older diesel buses are replaced.

blog comments powered by Disqus