Louisiana is the first state to release their Volkswagen settlement fund dollars, and Lafayette Parish Schools has become the first recipient. Given the choice between replacing aging diesel school buses with newer diesel models or with buses fueled by propane, this district chose to utilize funding from the state’s Environmental Mitigation Trust to purchase ten new Blue Bird Vision Propane school buses.
Since the VW settlement funding was approved, officials and districts alike have been determining where the dollars should go. Louisiana’s $18 million dollars are solely dedicated to the replacement of older diesel school buses over the next three years. Their school districts are given the option to replace these buses by utilizing the funds to cover 25 percent of the purchase cost of new diesel buses, or 50 percent of the purchase cost for new propane buses.
The first school district to take advantage of Louisiana’s funds, Lafayette Parish Schools, chose Blue Bird Vision Propane buses to replace aging diesel buses in their fleet. “With emissions reductions and maintenance costs in mind, we chose to purchase 10 Vision Propane Blue Bird buses,” said Joe Craig, assistant superintendent at Lafayette Parish Schools.
Last year, Blue Bird released the first propane engine (produced by Ford and powered by ROUSH CleanTech’s fuel system) in a school bus application certified at the low-NOx emissions level of 0.05 g/bhp-hr. Today, Blue Bird now offers an ultra-low emissions level option of 0.02g NOx, making the Blue Bird Vision Propane bus ten times cleaner than any other make of combustion-fueled school buses. Reaching lower emission levels allows districts more opportunities to secure green-initiative grants, such as VW’s emissions settlement, as well as providing higher levels of funding for vehicles with low levels of NOx emissions.
“Because of the low NOx levels that can be reached with our propane engines, the buses are prime for grants and funding, including funding from VW’s Environmental Mitigation Trust,” said Todd Mouw, president of ROUSH CleanTech.
Craig claims that the main reasons propane was chosen over diesel, beyond the significant environmental benefits, had to do with cost savings over time, and the options available to allow the buses to take longer routes without the need to refuel as often as propane buses in the past. “The cost of maintenance for propane buses is significantly less than a diesel bus,” said Craig. “In addition, the larger, extended range fuel tanks being offered for these buses means we only have to refill our propane buses once a week on average.”
“As the first recipient of VW funds, we are delighted that Lafayette Parish Schools chose Blue Bird propane buses as their solution to reducing emissions,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. “We offer the broadest range of alternative-fuel powered buses in the school bus industry and our low-NOx propane bus is a great product, providing fuel and maintenance cost savings, along with significant environmental benefits. Over the years, we’ve seen that once a school district runs a Blue Bird propane bus, they keep coming back for more!”
Propane school buses have received heightened interest because of Volkswagen’s emissions settlement, after it was announced last year. The automaker’s $2.9 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust will fund actions that specifically reduce NOx emissions, and state after state are promoting alternative-fueled school buses in their funding models.
Nitrogen oxides are a group of gases known to contribute to acid rain, smog and other air quality issues. According to the EPA, exposure to NOx exhaust can cause negative health effects in children, including eye, nose, throat and lung irritations, headaches and fatigue.
Today almost one million students ride to school in more than 14,000 Blue Bird Vision Propane school buses across the nation.