The Washington County School System has 11 propane-powered school buses on area roads this school year, and the district would like to add more to its fleet very soon.
“Our plans are to continue to purchase school buses that are more environmentally friendly, be it propane or electric,” Jarrod Adams, chief operations officer of Washington County Schools, said Tuesday. “Currently, propane buses are much more affordable than electric. We plan to purchase propane buses to replace the buses that must come off the road at the end of this school year.”
Washington County commissioners are scheduled to vote next week on a request from county schools to use $946,000 from education capital funds to replace aging school buses.
The school system began adding propane buses to its fleet in 2019 with the help of a $102,500 grant from East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition, which is aimed at reducing diesel emissions.
The terms of the grant required the school system to permanently disable the retired diesel buses that the five propane vehicles replaced.
In January of this year, Washington County was awarded another $54,000 from the “Reducing Diesel Emissions for a Healthier Tennessee” rebate program through the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition. Those grant funds were used to help purchase six new propane-powered school buses that replaced diesel models that were retired earlier this month.
In addition to its propane buses, Washington County used other grant funds to add Tennessee’s first all-electric school bus to its fleet in June. Built by Lion Electric, the new electric bus will reduce carbon emissions and save the school system money on its fuel and maintenance costs.
The county school system reports that its 11 propane buses are meeting expectations. Officials believe the propane buses will help save the district money by ending the costly maintenance needed for diesel vehicles to meet environmental standards and emission requirements.
“The propane buses are performing fantastic for us,” Adams said. “The drivers like them, the students like them and the bus garage mechanics like them.”
And while the buses are doing fine mechanically, Adams said “like every other school system in America, we could use six more bus drivers.”