|
The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Putting it 'through the paces'

    • email print
      Comment
  • HORNELL — Hey, let's take this baby for a spin.
    Something like that has been going on this week and will continue through next week as the Hornell City School District gets behind the wheels of some new, possibly money-saving, transportation technology.
    School transportation supervisor Steve Sleight said the district is currently testing out a 65-passenger, full-size, propane-powered school bus, on loan from New York Bus Sales. The propane is the difference, as the entire school district fleet is currently made up of diesel-powered buses.
    Would adding a propane-powered bus to the school district's transportation arsenal save taxpayers some money? That's a question that school officials want to answer.
    Sleight and district mechanic Dave Giles briefed the board of education on the test project at Wednesday night's meeting. Transportation officials say they'll look closely at the miles the bus can travel on each gallon of propane. They'll compare the costs to the expense of diesel fuel, and report back to district policy makers with some recommendations.
    According to the National Propane Gas Association, when contained in an approved cylinder or tank, propane exists as a liquid and vapor. The vapor is released from the container as a clean-burning fuel gas. Propane is 270 times more compact as a liquid than as a gas, making it economical to store and transport as a liquid, the industry group said.
    The district pays approximately $3.72 for a gallon of diesel fuels, achieving about eight miles per gallon with its buses. The district is purchasing propane locally for $2.59 per gallon. The miles per gallon with propane is probably half that of diesel, Sleight estimated. But that's what the test period is supposed to answer more definitively.
    "It's here so we can get a better idea of the actual fuel miles that it gets," Sleight said. "Compared to what everybody has said, we want an actual account. To see if it would actually benefit us."
    Hornell's propane vehicle is be used on a variety of bus routes and with different operators, traveling within the city and also in outlying areas of the district where the terrain varies.
    "We got the bus on Jan. 21 and road tested it around the first day," Sleight said. "Then on Wednesday, we started taking students around in it."
    Sleight called the propane bus "relatively new" technology, noting that Hornell's experiment with the vehicle is rare occurrence in the region. While the vehicle is touted as less expensive to maintain (for example, it uses less oil), the key factor will be if it offers real savings on fuel costs.
    "Instead of speculating, we want to know exactly where we would be with this vehicle," Sleight explained. "We are going to put it through the paces."

        calendar