With more than 2,600 propane-autogas school buses in operation statewide and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared Texas Propane School Bus Week, which runs through this Friday, the Texas Railroad Commission and the propane industry celebrated a milestone.
Propane equipment manufacturer CleanFuel USA said Abbott’s proclamation also marked the 10th anniversary of the initial meeting of industry representatives that resulted in Blue Bird’s development of the first OEM, factory-produced propane school bus, the first-generation Propane-Powered Vision.
“The state of Texas is commemorating a substantial milestone in propane autogas and student transportation,” said Curtis Donaldson, president and founder of CleanFUEL USA and coordinator of the initial propane launch meeting. “It is amazing to look back and know that this group essentially paved the road for cleaner and more economical propane autogas school buses throughout the United States.”
Donaldson spoke on Tuesday during an event sponsored by the Propane Education Research Council and the Propane Council of Texas.
Blue Bird partnered in 2006 with CleanFuel USA to provide the propane injection system on a Ford chassis to power the Vision. Since, Blue Bird developed its second-generation Propane-Powered Vision with ROUSH CleanTech and also offers a propane version of its Type A Micro Bird.
For the past three years, CleanFuel USA has worked with Thomas Built Buses on producing the Propane Saf-T-Liner C2 and, in partnership with GM, the Type A Minotour. CleanFuel USA also partners with Collins Bus on the Type A NexBus, the very first propane school bus offering of any type dating back to 2008 and 2009.
With IC Bus joining the mix this past year with its own propane offering, the CE Series with engine partner Power Solutions International, the stage is set for increased production in 2016. So far, industry reports put the number of factory-produced propane school buses on the road at more than 7,000. These buses transport about a half-million students to and from school each day without the harmful carcinogens emitted by older diesel school buses, added CleanFuel USA.
Regular feedback from propane customers provided to STN indicate fuel cost savings of up to 50 percent compared to gasoline and diesel. Propane autogas buses can also reduce maintenance costs as they require fewer service intervals over the lifetime of the vehicle. Owners also have told the magazine that propane autogas offer students and drivers a quieter ride, and drivers are reporting similar horsepower and torque to diesel counterparts.
Seventy school districts in Texas agree.
Meanwhile, CleanFuel USA’s Donaldson and Al McFadden, the retired director of business development, were also recognized at Tuesday’s event in Austin, which was also hosted by Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams.
State Rep. Tony Dale also offered a resolution from the House of Representatives, commemorating and recognizing the individuals who initiated the propane school bus program.