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Thomas Built Buses Propane Type A to Go into Production By Next Summer

A Thomas representative confirmed to School Transportation News this month that the manufacturer expects to go into production by mid-year 2012 on its own line of propane-powered Minotour small school buses.

The bus will be the third propane option available to the market throughout the past three years. Jed Routh, product planning manager for Thomas, said the new Type A will be powered by a CleanFuels USA liquid propane system upfitted by Knapheide on a GM cut-away chassis, the same platform upon which the company is currently constructing its Minotour body. This system is currently used in service, KUV and platform bodies as well as in box vans.

Routh added that the market is dictating additional options of all alternative fuels, which was made clear during a vehicle manufacturers panel presented at last month’s NAPT Summit in Cincinnati.

“We obviously won’t be able to do every engine technology, but we know that there are different segments of the country that have different needs and we want to meet those needs,” he said. “Propane obviously has stood out in several areas, so we have a really good opportunity on two different platforms to offer it and we’re just going to take that opportunity.”

He specifically mentioned the Texas market, where propane has become a popular choice with backing from the Texas Railroad Commission. According to propane industry data, there are more than 300,000 propane-fueled vehicles in operation nationwide, and more than 90 percent of propane is produced in North America. Propane also has developed infrastructure offering more than 3,000 refueling stations in the United States.

Thomas has produced two pilot models so far for GM. The chassis still must be crash tested, Routh said.

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