HomePartner UpdatesNew Age of Alternative Fuels is Here

New Age of Alternative Fuels is Here

From gasoline to propane and CNG to diesel, the world of alternative fuels can be dizzying. There is no one-size-fits-all model; some types of alternative fuel are just better suited for certain districts. And, as alternative fuels have become more popular, many districts which are switching their fleets over to a new fuel source have found gaps in the market for the exact product to fit their needs.

For many fleets, though, especially those which enjoy the benefits of compressed natural gas, that is no longer the case. Thomas Built Buses has just announced the release of the Saf-T-Liner C2 CNG school bus, the first in the industry. The new Saf-T-Liner C2 CNG is powered by a Cummins Westport ISB6.7G 200-240 horsepower engine with an Allison 2000 series transmission. It has a 60 diesel gallon equivalent capacity, and, like the traditional C2 customers know and love, the C2 CNG features excellent driver ergonomics and maneuverability, along with the best visibility in its class.

Why the C2? 

In 2004, the Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 changed the school bus industry. The bus was designed from the ground up to be the best in class. The Thomas Built team built the chassis and bus body to be proprietary to each other, a first in the industry, and focused heavily on what mattered most to customers: safety, durability, reliability and cost.


“When we first designed the Saf-T-Liner C2, we looked at technologies from the aerospace industry,” said Ken Hedgecock, VP of sales, marketing and service for Thomas Built Buses. “We took advantage of the knowledge and innovation from some of the top engineering departments in the world. And that led us to something completely new for the school bus industry: adhesives and self-piercing rivets. By combining these technologies, we were able to create joints that are incredibly flexible, with a strength nearly double existing joining methods. In fact, testing shows that in some cases the adhesive joints are stronger than the side sheet itself. That’s critical so joints on the bus will maintain their integrity for the entire life of the bus.”

Thomas Built Buses also welded together the floor, rafters and stringers. When the shell is bonded to the frame, the result is a single, cohesive unit that is extremely stable and strong.


From the one-piece bonded windshield, which provides a panoramic view, to the low sloping hood, low instrument panel and A-pillar windows, the C2’s visibility is among the best in the Type C category. In addition, all C2s are created with Saf-T-Net construction, a signature Thomas Built feature that includes side-skirt reinforcement and extended roof bows, as well as a welded header and rafter system. Together, these and many other features make the C2 one of the safest buses on the market.

Innovation and Technologies

Thomas Built Buses always is evolving its products and adding new features that will make buses safer, easier to maintain and more efficient. All Saf-T-Liner C2 buses currently have one of the most comprehensive telematics products on the market, installed as standard equipment through a partnership with Zonar. This factory-installed system provides real-time data on bus performance, driver behavior, potential maintenance issues and even passengers.

The Zonar system runs through the pre-wired Thomas Built C2 multiplex wiring system. This closed system optimizes communication, reduces faults and lets drivers and transportation managers monitor as many as 30 different functions of the bus. In addition, Thomas Built Buses just announced the new BusWise Technologies suite of innovations for the C2, which includes equipment such as 360-degree cameras, lane departure warnings, tire pressure monitoring and collision avoidance. These new technologies are not only shaping the industry, but also setting the bar for the safety of school buses today.

Fuel Saving Technology Fuel is one of the biggest expenses for a school bus fleet. Now, with a compressed natural gas option on the C2, fleets can save more money than ever before.

“Switching a fleet to compressed natural gas involves not only the capital costs of the buses themselves, but also the cost of a fueling stations if a district does not have a local CNG fueling station nearby,” said John Roselli, manager of alternative fuels for Thomas Built Buses. “But the beauty of compressed natural gas is that once the upfront capital costs are accounted for, districts can plan their budgets year after year. Unlike other fuel sources, compressed natural gas prices are stable and low-cost, allowing fleet managers to budget their fuel costs for the year without any hidden surprises or price spikes. With fuel rebates in place right now, we are seeing fleets enjoy CNG for $.80 per gallon, and then receive a $.50 rebate from the government on top of that. Those kinds of prices are unheard of in the diesel world.”

Roselli added that districts which switch to compressed natural gas end up saving money in the long run and recouping their initial capital investment.

“Districts like compressed natural gas not only because it saves on fuel costs, but because compressed natural gas buses are clean-burning, great for the environment and are very quiet buses,” continued Roselli. “Plus, since compressed natural gas is a domestic fuel source and the supply is relatively unlimited, the price of the fuel will always stay low and stable.” Fleets which already have realized the benefits of compressed natural gas in Type D and Type A products are excited about an addition to the market. With compressed natural gas options for all three product types, Thomas Built Buses is once again an industry leader in alternative fuels.

“Thomas Built Buses introduced its first compressed natural gas bus more than 20 years ago,” explained Roselli. “It’s been popular and we’ve put more than 2,000 CNG buses on the road since then. That’s why we are so excited about this new bus. You can expect a 13% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to our traditional C2, decreased bus maintenance and significant costs savings due to lower fuel costs and exceptional fuel economy. Customers who are looking for a type C product and are considering alternative fuels now essentially can have it all.”

Thomas Built has confirmed that orders for the Saf-T-Liner C2 CNG already are coming in from fleets with compressed natural gas and from fleets trying compressed natural gas for the first time.

“Our customers could not be more excited about our new C2 CNG product,” said Roselli. “Fleets which already realize reduced fuel costs from their Type A and D school buses are welcoming this Type C option. And other fleets which don’t yet have CNGs also are placing orders. This is a great product that will provide fleets with significant cost savings. And when diesel prices go back up, which they will, compressed natural gas will become an even more attractive option for fleets across the country.”

Even after 12 years in operation, the Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner C2 continues to revolutionize the school bus industry. Thanks to the updating and upgrading with state-of-the-art technology, the C2 can lead any fleet well into the future. If you love the Saf-T-Liner C2 and are interested in switching to compressed natural gas, talk to your local dealer to find out more about this bus and the fueling options available in your area.

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