Propane Powered Buses for Toppenish Students

Propane powered busses are set to start running this fall for the school district.

Yakima Valley diesel prices are beginning to rise above four dollars a gallon.

The Toppenish School District is planning to pay about half that with their new propane powered buses.

"After a government rebate our net costs of our propane is about a dollar-forty," says Blaine Thorington, Toppenish District Transportation Director.

The yellow buses are going green according to Thorington, who heads the Toppenish district transportation team and adds, "The exhaust coming out is clean, there's no black exhaust to have to deal with and they tell us that the oil when we dump it after an oil change is the same color, same texture as the new oil that goes in."

Thorington says these propane powered vehicles, or autogas, will be a "great barometer" for the district to see if the money they save is worth adding more.

The buses run using two large forty gallon tanks that are bolstered under the vehicle. While the high flamability of propane could be a safety issue, Blaine believes these buses are just as safe as any other in his fleet.

The large tanks are filled a couple miles away from the bus depot.

The company that builds these pump believes the fuel is much safer to handle as well, "It's a really good alternative fuel, it's used a lot in Eurpoe where they use mostly diesel, and ya i think it's a safer way to go," said Claude Zehnder, petroleum manager for Blehyl Farm Service.

Bus driver Rick Barber drove and fueled an autogas bus today, and says he is impressed and adds, "A lot more responsive, no engine noise, sounds just like a regular gas engine, nice and quite, pleanty of power to it."