Two local school districts receive buses fueled by propane

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Out with old and in with a new source of fuel for two Lowcountry school districts.

"They're clean. They're brand spanking new," Berkeley County Superintendent Brenda Blackburn said.  "They're going to be the first ones to ride in them. You know that new car smell? I bet that new bus smell is just as great."

The Department of Education rolled out the new Blue Bird Propane Vision school buses Thursday. The buses are fueled by propane autogas that's clean-burning and produced right here in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, propane is a promising alternative fuel for school buses. They say the fuel is widely available no matter where you live and it costs less than diesel or gasoline.

"These are more fuel efficient with the propane, they're cleaner technology," Denise Dunn, with Blanchard Machinery, said. "They're safer technology. Because at the end of the day it's all about the safety of the children on the bus."

The fuel efficiency also means a cut in maintenance costs. According to officials, twenty-year-old buses average about forty nine cents per mile. The new propane counterparts--only 21 cents.

On average, school districts save around $2,000 per propane-running bus per year on maintenance costs.

"That's less than half," Blackburn said. "That's huge and that gives us an opportunity to divert more funds to our bus purchases or more importantly, our classroom."

South Carolina is known for one of the oldest school bus fleets in the nation. Theses 26 buses will replace older diesel run models. The state fleet ranges from buses from 1988 to 2016.

"It is a priority need. We've gotta get the kids to school safely," Blackburn said.

Berkeley County Schools will receive 16 of the 26 buses, according to Blackburn, who also said the buses will replace older models that have already been removed from the district's fleet. Dorchester District Two says they are tentatively set to take in 11 to replace aging school buses.

"I think we're just setting the pace for the future for propane and electric cars and a lot of different things we need to do to conserve the resources we have and protect the environment," Blackburn added.

Officials say all will need to go through the right testing and protocols before your kids hop on.

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