Summerville, SC (WLTX) - South Carolina's got one of the oldest bus fleets in the country, but brand new buses are headed for the streets and they don't even use gas. The South Carolina Department of Education (DOE) debuted 26 propane tank buses in the Lowcountry today that are said to be better for the environment and more cost effective.
"One of the issues that our state has is the age of our bus fleet," said Joe Blanchard, the president of Blanchard Machinery Company.
It's no secret, South Carolina's buses are old.
"The oldest buses that the state currently operates were manufactured in 1988," Blanchard said.
On Thursday, the DOE cranked out 26 brand new buses, but this it is no ordinary fleet. They are powered by propane as opposed to the diesel.
"Oh, it'll be great," Blanchard said.
Blanchard says propane buses aren't a new phenomenon.
"We're not the guinea pigs," Blanchard said, "there are over 10,000 propane powered buses running in the country, so these are just the first here."
Although the propane buses cost 10 thousand dollars more than a diesel bus, Blanchard says they save money in the long run.
"They're much cheaper to operate on a per mile basis," Blanchard said.
"Forty-nine cents a mile in operation for diesel, 21 cents a mile for propane, so think about what you do with those cost savings," said Todd Mouw, with Roush CleanTech, an alternative fuel vehicle technology company.
Mouw says the propane also comes cheaper than diesel since it is made in the US.
"The fact it's domestic is huge, 90% of the propane we use comes from this country," Mouw said.
The propane tanks are also said to be 20 times more puncture resistant and safer for the environment, posing no harm to groundwater, surface water or soil. Propane autogas is also said to be nontoxic, non-carcinogenic, and non-corrosive.
"We can affect those kids lives from an air quality perspective and health perspective, and then putting the money back in the classrooms," Mouw said.
Right now, these propane buses will only be in Dorchester and Berkeley counties. The DOE tells us they need to assess how it is working in these two counties, and then they will be able to make a decision on whether to bring these buses to the rest of the state.
Bringing the buses to other parts of the state will also require the creation of propane tank filling stations for fuel. The DOE says that could cost anywhere between $40k and $100k. They say they will use these two counties as a pilot to determine where they go from here.