Allegan County Transportation purchases first fleet of cleaner propane buses

Allegan County Transportation (ACT) has steered into a greener future. The reservation bus service recently purchased its first fleet of seven propane-powered buses, which will enable the county to meet air quality goals, lower fuel and maintenance costs, and reduce lifetime ownership costs.
Whitney Ehresman, Allegan County Transportation director
The propane-fueled, light-duty cutaway buses cost $21,000 more per vehicle than their gasoline counterparts, according to Whitney Ehresman, Allegan County Transportation’s director, but in the long run are worth the higher price.

“If you look at the savings per vehicle, it’s tens of thousands of dollars every year, and that adds up over the lifetime of the vehicle,” Ehresman says. “So that $21,000 is going to pay off in the long run in terms of the fuel and maintenance costs.”

The $1.1 million purchase of the seven buses was made possible by the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ). The program provides funding to state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and transit agencies to invest in projects that reduce transportation-related emissions.

Region eligible for federal help
Dan Wedge, executive director of services for Allegan County
The Environmental Protection Agency has deemed Allegan County eligible for the CMAQ funds, says Dan Wedge, Allegan County’s executive director of service. 

The county’s research concluded propane is the way to go.

“We looked at other organizations that are moving to propane with success, so we actually started looking at propane back in 2019, 2020,” Wedge says. “We made the decision to purchase these in 2021 during the COVID period, which is when we placed those orders.”

Emissions from propane-powered buses are nontoxic, noncarcinogenic, and noncorrosive that poses no harm to groundwater or soil. These buses emit fewer greenhouse gases, less nitrogen oxide, less carbon monoxide and fewer particulate emissions compared with other fuels. Specifically, results from a study from West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions show propane buses reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 96%.

This is all new territory for ACT, but additional propane buses are on the horizon.

“This is the first time we have ordered buses powered by an alternative fuel source,” Ehresman says. “We are planning to continue to order propane-powered vehicles. The range is great on the vehicles, plus propane is readily available in the United States. We are committed to a future powered by propane.”

Immediate cost savings

The fuel cost comparisons between propane and gasoline show a stark contrast.

Ehresman says ACT started fueling its buses with propane on Halloween, costing $2,119 in the first monthGasoline buses average $4,201 for the same refueling schedule — double the cost.

“So far, the reception has been positive from drivers, and we have already saved quite a bit on refueling costs, so we are planning to continue to order propane-powered vehicles,” Ehresman says.
Allegan County Transportation recently purchased its first fleet of seven propane-powered buses.

ACT is so committed to propane that it intends to eventually install its own refueling infrastructure.

”Our propane supplier refuels our propane fleet three days a week to top off all of our vehicles,” Ehresman says. “But our goal is to have refueling infrastructure in place at our facility by the end of 2024. This will lower propane costs, improve efficiency, allow for more refueling flexibility, and will even make us eligible to receive rebates through the federal government.”

The cost to ride one way on the buses, which accommodate about 15 people, remains $2 for an adult and $1 for those aged 60 or older or with a disability. 

On the horizon is a bus reservation app Ehresman says will go live in the first quarter of 2024.

“That will allow us to have an app for customers, and we’ll be able to have more flexibility in scheduling,” she says.

In the meantime, rides can be scheduled by going to 

Allegan County Transportation bus driver Judy Oisten
Michigan firm does bus conversions

Livonia-based Roush CleanTech is the manufacturer that converts traditional powered-vehicles such as Allegan’s to propane.

Jack Roush founded Roush Enterprises in 1976, primarily as a powertrain company. Ten years ago, Roush CleanTech was launched to develop propane technology for medium-duty Ford commercial vehicles and school buses.

The concept has caught on. More than 1,500 propane-powered vehicles are now operated by transit agencies around the nation, including Boyne City, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Lapeer, and Saginaw.
Todd Mouw, executive vice president of Roush CleanTech
“Fast forward to almost 50 years,” says Todd Mouw, executive vice president of Roush CleanTech. “We’ve got about 5,000 employees and locations all over the globe, but with the same mission: we’re helping customers solve complex problems. We’re the guys and gals who for the last 10 years helped fleets make the transition from what they know to something more cost-effective and cleaner for the communities in which they operate.”

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Read more articles by Paul R. Kopenkoskey.