Lowcountry charter school rolls out new natural gas bus

Thursday was supposed to be the final day of the regular session for the South Carolina General Assembly.
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 4:51 AM EDT|Updated: May. 12, 2023 at 5:31 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A new natural gas bus has made its way to the Lowcountry.

Orange Grove Charter School, located in West Ashley, is the first bus in South Carolina that will run on a blend of renewable gas and diesel. The bus is named The Cow Fart Bus. Its meaning is meant to highlight the bus’s natural resources to protect the environment such as landfill gas or even cow manure.

It all started with an email from a parent to the CEO of Orange Grove Charter School John H. Clendaniel. After learning more about the technology from efficiency and safety and if it had been tested, Clendaniel says he just had to get on board.

“A win-win situation, a chance to be a part of a pilot program that’s innovative, no cost to the school or taxpayers so it was to me just a no-brainer decision,” Clendaniel says. “We received a lot of support from our constituents as well to run this pilot program so these guys have been great to work with and it’s been a good thing for us so far.”

The bus runs on blended diesel and renewable natural gas, making the emissions come out cleaner and the school saves money on their fueling cost. Clendaniel says the school is seeing about 30 percent savings in fuel costs and that’s just one bus. The bus driver, Steve Arato, fills up all the buses as a part of his job. Once he gets back from the end of a route. Arato plugs the bus in the appliance and the bus is full of renewable natural gas, which takes about three and a half hours to get a full fill.

“Without this gas conversion, I was filling this bus up every week and a half. Now it’s what, every three weeks, it’s nice,” Arato says. “I feel safer. Because everybody back there is my responsibility and I take that very seriously. With the new gas conversion, it definitely has a little more power it’s quicker.”

Clendaniel says they’ll continue to track the data through the summer and then make considerations for how to advance locally here at the school. At a minimum, they want to run another bus with renewable natural gas and go from there. Clendaniel says there are some logistical things you have to have with appliances to fuel the bus. The length of the hose and parking are two important factors.

Dante Marini, Product Engineer at NeuFuel, and Nate Thacker, Director of Sales for American CNG DEMI, say many school districts are interested in renewable natural gas technology right now, including one from Minnesota. Nationwide, they’re working on getting more and more school buses a little bit cleaner. Marini and Thacker say the cost of the fueling appliance is about $5,000. Clients typically will make the cost of the fueling appliance back within a year, depending on driving. Clients are expected to save about $3 a gallon from natural gas versus diesel.

Clendaniel says it makes him proud Orange Grove is able to be a part of this pilot program. Not only is it good for the environment but it could potentially change how buses are run in our state. He says teaching the kids not only cost-saving but smart decisions as far as saving the environment, fills him with a level of pride.

“They know that their bus is fueled by natural gas so I think when they get older and understand it a little bit more it’s a good opportunity to teach them not only some cost-saving things but just some smart decisions as far as saving the environment so there’s a little level of pride that comes with riding on bus #1 with Steve Senior our senior driver,” Clendaniel says.