Horry County Schools considering propane-powered school buses

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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – The Horry County school board is considering getting new, propane-powered buses from the state to replace some diesel buses. 

The State Department of Education was given $14.3 million in the last legislative session for school buses, and the propane buses cost $91, 325 each. The propane-powered buses have been operating in Dorchester and Berkeley counties for a little more than a year, and the state said Horry County Schools is next on the list. 

The state would swap out 18 diesel-powered buses for the new, propane-powered buses, if the school board approves. Ryan Brown with the state said these buses are more cost-effective per gallon. Currently, the cost per gallon is $1.31 for propane, compared to $2.24 for diesel. The state also receives a.36-cent rebate per gallon, making the price drop to $0.95 per gallon. Brown said this saves in fuel cost, but it also saves in overall maintenance costs for the buses. 

The propane buses would have a similar look to the current school buses, but drivers would need to be trained because operating those buses is slightly different. Brown they are equipped with the latest safety features for students, and are comparable if not more safe than the current diesel buses. The state would cover the cost of the buses, maintenance, and fueling, but Horry County Schools would need to contribute as well. 

“Our requirements would be to be able to provide a foundation pad for the fueling station, and also be able to run electricity into that,” said Lisa Bourcier with Horry County Schools. “So, the board directed staff to go back and research some of the costs and what it would take to be able to provide that fueling station.”

There are also some environmental benefits to propane-powered buses as well. Brown said in an email, “Propane autogas vehicles emit 80 percent fewer smog-producing hydrocarbons and virtually eliminate particulate matter compared to diesel, according to Roush CleanTech.”

Horry County Schools currently has 374 buses, and 313 of those are owned by the state. The buses drive about 34,000 miles per day, which equals about 4.8 million miles per year on 1,366 routes. There are nine bus offices in the county, and if the board approves the propane buses, the fueling station would likely be located at the St. James bus office. 

Bourcier said they are expecting to make a final decision within the next month on whether or not they will go forward with getting 18 propane buses for the district. The next school board meeting is Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. 

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