Livonia Public Schools added 22 Blue Bird propane autogas-fueled buses to its fleet with funding received from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). The district was granted $844,386.40 through EGLE’s Fuel Transformation Program to purchase clean, cost-effective propane school buses that began operation when Michigan schools opened for the 2020-21 school year.

“With our new Blue Bird propane buses, the school district saves money, our students get a safe, quieter bus and our community gets a cleaner environment,” said Rick Martin, fleet garage supervisor for Livonia Public Schools. “We think our Livonia Public Schools parents will be impressed by this big step, and they’ll be interested to know that these propane fuel systems are manufactured right here in Livonia by ROUSH CleanTech.”

The district turned to propane after dealing with the costly and complex emission systems required on diesel buses, ROUSH CleanTech reports. The new Blue Bird Vision Propane buses don’t require any additional emission maintenance. They are 75% cleaner than federal emissions standards, emitting fewer total hydrocarbons and virtually eliminating particulate matter.

Propane school buses also reduce harmful nitrogen oxides by 96%, according to a 2019 study by West Virginia University. Exposure to nitrogen oxide exhaust can have negative health effects on children and is a leading cause of asthma, according to the EPA.

“EGLE recognizes children’s vulnerability to diesel exhaust and the importance of replacing old diesel school buses with new low emission school buses,” said Debra Swartz, fuel transportation program manager for EGLE, which serves as the state’s lead agency for the Volkswagen settlement funds. “Reducing air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides is a goal of the Fuel Transformation Program along with increasing the adoption of alternate fuel and zero emission vehicles. Projects such as Livonia Public Schools to replace old diesel school buses with new propane buses aligns perfectly with these goals.”

To date, EGLE has provided grants to 69 school districts to replace over 300 school buses.

Across North America, the price of propane autogas averages 50% less than diesel. The district pays $2.08 per gallon for diesel and $1.21 per gallon for propane. The district installed a propane fuel station on its property to help manage fuel costs and conveniently refill the buses. The filling station was built at a minimal cost to the school district based upon a contract to purchase propane fuel from AmeriGas.

“With each Blue Bird propane bus, school districts can save thousands of dollars annually on fuel and maintenance—and that’s before any clean-fuel funding that further accelerates savings,” said David Bercik, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Blue Bird Corp. “The power and reliability of domestically produced propane is helping the nation lead a clean fuel revolution. At Blue Bird we’re committed to safer and cleaner student transportation, and we’re proud to be the clear market leader in driving towards low and zero emissions. It’s a mission for us!”

Nearby Wayne-Westland Community Schools also received Volkswagen settlement funding and purchased 19 new propane school buses.

“It’s been rewarding for us to see our hometown school districts operate these economical and clean propane buses,” said Ryan Zic, vice president of school bus sales for ROUSH CleanTech. He added that the buses were purchased through Michigan’s Blue Bird dealer, Holland Bus Company.

Across the nation, there are more than 20,000 propane buses deployed in over 1,000 school districts.