State grant funding will aid a local school district with diesel bus replacement.

Next year a quarter of the Fowlerville Community Schools’ buses used for daily student transportation will sound and smell a bit different from the rest of the fleet. The district is one of eight that will share $626,573 in grants awarded through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The grant incentivizes the purchase of new, lower-emissions buses to replace older buses. Fowlerville will be able to purchase five buses rather than the usual one to two annually and all five of the new buses will run on liquid propane (LP) rather than diesel. To qualify, schools need to replace daily-use buses from model year 2009 or older with new buses, permanently retiring the old buses from service. The new buses must meet or exceed specific emissions standards. In exchange, the grant will provide a reimbursement of approximately $120,000 for the purchase of the buses.

Fowlerville Superintendent Wayne Roedel says low-emissions diesel buses were also eligible for grant funding but the district opted to use the funds to pilot LP buses, which will give them quieter buses and lower emissions. Roedel says they provide a cleaner alternative and will save energy and maintenance time in the winter because their mechanics won’t have to pre-warm the engine electrically and/or start them prior to drivers arriving. Those steps are required for diesel buses when temperatures drop below 20 degrees. The only drawback is said to be lower mileage per gallon of fuel for propane buses. Roedel says many districts are trying to become more green to protect the environment and the propane buses are a step in that direction. However, he says it’s still too soon to say whether this could be the start of a full transition to LP buses or whether the pilot will prove the transition too costly to continue. He says they’ll review the project at six months and then after a year to determine if they’ll continue to diversify their fleet with propane buses or continue purchasing the most fuel-efficient diesel buses. The full statement from Fowlerville Community Schools is attached. (JM)