Blue Bird’s Steve Whaley targets alternatives to diesel

May 9, 2024 By     0 Comments

Early this year, Blue Bird Corp. expanded its alternative fuels team to build on the company’s offerings in electric and propane-powered student transportation. Blue Bird appointed Steve Whaley and Brad Beauchamp to alternative fuels managers.

Whaley joined the school bus manufacturer from the Propane Education & Research Council, where he served as the director of autogas business development since December 2019.

Steve Whaley photo

Whaley

LP Gas visited with Whaley during the Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo in April. Here are five takeaways from the interview.

  • 62 percent of Blue Bird’s buses operate on alternatives to diesel, and propane makes up a large part of that total.
  • Blue Bird has 20,000 propane-fueled buses in more than 1,100 school districts nationwide, compared to 2,000 of its electric buses. Whaley says the 20,000 propane buses are using more than 80 million gallons of propane. “When they start using propane, they don’t stop,” he says of the school districts.
  • Emissions regulations on diesel have changed dramatically in recent years. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels from model year unit 2023 to 2024 are moving from a .2 level of NOx to .05, Whaley explains. They will continue to move lower – to .035 in 2027 and .02 in 2031. “People who work on diesel engines and have to buy diesel engines are spending a lot more money on this aftertreatment and a lot more money on the servicing of this aftertreatment,” he says. “And it’s going to get a lot worse.”
  • Propane’s already ahead of the game in the emissions category. “Our propane product today is already at .02 levels of emission,” Whaley says. “It’s safeguarded until the next decade. It makes it a very successful prospect because they know now in student transportation circles that they can’t stay on diesel.”
  • Propane marketers interested in pursuing the school bus market should first transition their own fleets to propane autogas, Whaley says. He encourages marketers to partner with companies like Blue Bird and Roush CleanTech. Together, they can work to present propane’s value proposition to the districts.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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