Friday, May 23, 2014

Alt-fuel school bus options are growing

Manufacturers are meeting the demand for clean-burning, money-saving yellow buses by offering more powered by propane autogas and compressed natural gas, as well as all-electric units. Here’s a look at some of the school buses in development, on the market and in service at operations. 

Thomas Built propane Type C maximizes safety, boosts efficiency

A new offering has been added to Thomas Built Buses’ alternative-fuel lineup: The propane-powered Saf-T-Liner C2 school bus. Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Service Ken Hedgecock says the company has been producing this bus for a few months and is delivering units to customers. It is available at all dealer locations.

At press time, Thomas Built was expected to ramp up full production of the bus in late May or early June.

The bus is the company’s Saf-T-Liner C2 Type C school bus with a propane autogas engine. It features an Allison 2300 PTS Series transmission and an 8.0-liter liquid propane gas engine with a fully integrated CleanFUEL USA liquid propane injection system. The two-tank setup has an estimated 300-mile range with a 70-gallon capacity. The bus can accommodate up to 81 passengers.

“Like the diesel-powered Saf-T-Liner C2, this propane version is built to maximize safety, optimize efficiency, enhance driver comfort and provide maximum visibility,” Hedgecock says. “The bus features side skirt reinforcement and extended roof bows, which extend below the floor. Other features include fuel tanks mounted between the frame rails, a curved and bonded one-piece windshield, and proprietary Saf-T-Bond adhesive joints and rivets.”

Thomas Built Buses took ease of maintenance into consideration when designing the bus. Hedgecock says the propane C2 features multiplex wiring, which enhances serviceability with instant diagnostic codes, reduces electrical failure points and also reduces the weight of the bus.

Thomas Built Buses’ green vehicle lineup also includes the propane-fueled Minotour Type A school bus, which the company has offered since 2012, and the Saf-T-Liner HDX Type D and the Minotour Type A compressed natural gas (CNG) models.

Hedgecock notes that school districts and bus companies should think about several factors when they are considering integrating alternative-fueled buses into their fleet.

One factor is the total cost of ownership of the purchase: the cost of the bus, the fueling station, training for technicians and any special tools that may be needed to maintain an alternative-fueled bus. He says fueling stations can be expensive to install, so he advises pupil transportation operations to consider what types of fuel are most prevalent in their area and use this information to help in deciding the best type of fueling station to install.

“School districts should take into account grants or funds that are available for the purchase, along with how long it will take to recoup the costs of the overall purchase,” Hedgecock adds.

He says operations should also have a “one-on-one conversation with their local dealer to determine the best type of alternative fuel for them,” which can be helpful since the types of routes the buses will be used for must play into the purchase decision.

For more information about Thomas Built Buses’ propane-powered Saf-T-Liner C2 school bus, visit

Full article here.

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