This back-to-school season, an open house at Lee’s Summit R-7 School District in Missouri showcased two new Thomas Built compressed natural gas (CNG) school buses as the first step in their unique program that uses alternative energy to generate funds for classroom technology. The program significantly reduces fuel costs for the district, which means more money can be earmarked for educational initiatives and equipment.
Kelley Platt, CEO and president of Thomas Built Buses, joined R-7 School District Superintendent Dr. David McGehee and Clean Energy Senior Vice President Peter Grace to celebrate the delivery of the move toward converting the district’s fleet to compressed natural gas over the next few years.
“This initiative at Lee’s Summit marks one of the largest CNG conversions in the nation,” said Kelley Platt, president and CEO of Thomas Built Buses. “It is a testament to their vision to benefit through a cleaner environment and efficiencies of their total cost of ownership for the lives of the vehicles.”
Thomas Built leads the industry in incorporating green technology into its buses. The company introduced its first compressed natural gas bus nearly 20 years ago, and has sold over 2,000 CNG buses.
The district’s CNG conversion plan includes transitioning its fleet to new energy-efficient school buses powered by compressed natural gas, including a move toward CNG-powered facility maintenance trucks and continuation of the district's use of all-electric delivery trucks.
The school bus transition and technology upgrades are currently underway with the first phase of the switch to CNG-powered vehicles which took place this past summer. Additional phases of the vehicle transition will occur as buses and vehicles are due for replacement in future years.
The overall lease-purchase plan is being funded through district savings, redirected resources, and capital funds along with state, federal and business partnerships and grants.
Approximately $5 million of the estimated $11 million in overall savings from this 10-year initiative will be used to purchase technology infrastructure and equipment that will benefit all R-7 schools and facilities.
"We are making changes within our district that will benefit students for years and years," said McGehee. "With the conversion to environmentally friendly school buses and district vehicles, we are able to use the savings generated in this area to purchase much-needed technology infrastructure and equipment that will provide students with access to increased technological resources."
Additional benefits of CNG-powered vehicles
"Through this transition, we will be operating newer, quieter, and cleaner school buses while saving millions of dollars through the conversion," continued McGehee. “We will also be eliminating close to 150 metric tons of emissions and reducing our dependency on foreign oil products. It is truly a win-win situation for our schools."
Long-term fuel and maintenance savings are estimated at approximately $11 million with outside resources for the initiative totaling close to $3.5 million. In terms of cost per gallon, current estimates show the district saving close to 70 percent in fuel costs when comparing diesel fuel to compressed natural gas.
R-7 to operate CNG public filling station
The initiative also includes construction of a compressed natural gas (CNG) filling station near the district's Transportation Department at 500 Transport Drive. This facility will serve all school district vehicles while providing the community and Kansas City metropolitan area with a public CNG filling station.
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