Kansas City Public School buses going green

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The Kansas City Kansas Public School District announced the purchase of 47 Thomas Built HDX rear engine buses, powered by compressed natural gas. Acquisition of the buses, infrastructure and equipment was made possible by a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy distributed through the Kansas City Regional Clean Cities Coalition and matching funds from Kansas City Kansas Public Schools.

“Many forward-thinking customers are taking advantage of opportunities to build cleaner, greener fleets, and to address their long-term concerns about the price of diesel fuel,” says Ken Hedgecock, vice president of sales, marketing and service for Thomas Built Buses. “There’s about a $1 a gallon advantage in CNG over diesel, and that really adds up when you’re running a fleet of school buses. In addition, low finance rates and lower maintenance costs can sweeten the deal, generating substantial savings.”

The order for Thomas Built CNG buses were purchased through Midwest Bus Sales, the Thomas Built dealer for Kansas, Oklahoma, western Missouri and Illinois. The school district worked closely with Scott Kincaid, Midwest Bus Sales lease manager.

“Thomas responded to the school district’s request for bids with information on both hybrids and CNG buses,” Kincaid says. “The school district chose CNG, in part because they liked the idea of using domestically-sourced CNG, rather than imported diesel fuel.” Kincaid credits George Taylor, director of Transportation for the school district, as a “forward thinker who figured out how to negotiate the complex grant process.”

Midwest delivered one pilot model on Sept. 1. “By late November, we had five buses for training,” Taylor says. The rest of the buses will be delivered before the end of the year, and they’ll be put into service when the infrastructure is completed in early 2011. Infrastructure, also part of the grant, is comprised of 35 time-fill dispensers, with dual hoses allowing each station to fuel two buses at a time.

A time-fill arrangement allows buses to fill up overnight without any personnel being present, saving staff time and personnel cost. “With curbside access to fuel, drivers hook up buses at the end of the day, and in the morning buses are fueled and ready to go,” Taylor says. “There’s room for another 23 buses sometime in the future. I want other school districts to see the advantages of CNG buses. My dream is for the district’s fleet of large buses to be 100 percent CNG.”