The clicking sound of a propane lighter may not mean only grilled hamburgers will soon be awaiting Paulding residents — it may mean their children will soon be home from school.
Paulding County School District is buying 25 school buses powered by the same fuel that lights a barbecue grill.
Superintendent Cliff Cole told a crowd of state, local and business officials recently the school district is buying the buses equipped with the Roush propane autogas fuel system in hopes it will both lower maintenance and fuel costs.
“We’re really looking forward to future purchases of the propane engines,” he said.
Paulding schools officials are proposing spending $2.2 million to buy 25 Blue Bird Vision Propane buses. The purchase is planned within the annual cycle of replacing aged buses.
If the school board approves the purchase as part of its 2018 budget June 13, Paulding will be the first Metro Atlanta school district to transport students using propane-fueled buses, Cole said.
He said the “upfront” cost of a propane-powered bus is slightly higher than a diesel-powered bus but fuel costs will be 40 percent lower. It is the first purchase of buses that Cole said he hopes eventually will comprise the entire school district bus fleet.
Paulding currently operates 335 buses, most of which are diesel-powered. The district could see between $1,800 and $2,800 in savings per year, officials said.
Cole said he believed other school districts may not have wanted to make such an investment because of being unwilling to stray from the familiarity of a current fueling system.
Transportation Director Trey Studstill demonstrated how the bus was fueled and how the Ford 6.8-liter, V10, spark-ignited engine started and operated.
During an event earlier this month at the district’s Panter Fueling Site in Hiram, Studstill entered information on a digital card reader and pumped 40 gallons of propane into the tank using an adaptor that minimized spillage and splashing, he said.
Cole said the purchase was the culmination of a three-year study which included him traveling to Detroit, Mich., to see a demonstration of the engine.
Mark Terry, chief commercial officer for Blue Bird, said the buses also run more quietly than his company’s traditional diesel-powered buses “allowing drivers to hear and better manage the students that they transport.”
He also noted the buses put out less harmful emissions than traditional buses. Propane autogas emits up to 20 percent less nitrogen oxide, and up to 60 percent less carbon monoxide, officials said.
“It’s exciting to see how these buses will help this county realize thousands of dollars in savings, as well as providing a healthier environment for its residents, especially its school children,” Carey said.