Buses that run on propane gas will save the school district money over the diesel-operated buses it currently uses.
John Scholl, support services director for the Chino Valley Unified School District, described the savings to the school board at its regular meeting Dec. 9. Savings for three new buses will include more than 50 percent less in fuel costs or potentially $12,000 a year, which Scholl said was a "rough estimate." And propane engines are cheaper to maintain than diesel engines, he said, because propane parts such as fuel and air filters cost less than diesel parts.
The three buses, which have the conventional front (engine sticks out in the front) and are rated for 77 passengers, will arrive April 2014. The district currently has 26 transit (flat) front diesel buses, which are rated for 88 passengers.
Board Member Penny Hubble asked if district mechanics can repair propane engines and if the buses come with warranties. Scholl said propane engines are the same as gas engines, so the mechanics will have no problem with repairs. And the buses do come with warranties.
Board Vice President Jo Kelleher asked about emissions. Scholl said propane engines have lower emissions and that propane is considered an alternative fuel because it is a bi-product of natural gas.
Scholl said now is a good time to buy the buses because of a low interest rate on their purchase - 2.35 percent.
The district will buy the three new buses on a lease-purchase plan, which become district property after five years.
The buses will require very little training, Scholl said, and any training will be done by the bus company, Canyon State Bus Sales and the district bus trainers. Drivers will learn about the propane gas tanks that hang beneath the bus and swing out on turns, Scholl told the board.
The district will buy the propane gas from a local dealer, which the district has not yet determined, and will have it delivered to a large holding tank they will lease and set near the bus barn. The bus barn currently is at the high school, however the district is looking at options to move the bus barn to another location.
School Superintendent Duane Howard said he's ridden in a V10-engine propane bus and was impressed with it.
"I got to ride in one and it's a Cadillac ride," Howard said. "It was amazingly quiet."