WARTBURG (WATE) - Students in Morgan County are the first in the state of Tennessee to ride school buses powered not by gasoline, but by natural gas and propane.
Morgan County Schools unveiled three new buses Saturday that run on these alternative fuels.
They say it's better for children's health, and for the school system's wallet as well.
The buses look like any old yellow school bus on the outside, but it's what's inside their fuel tank that makes them very different.
Two are fueled by propane, the other one by natural gas.
They joined Morgan County School's fleet just this school year.
"They've been on the road since August, and we're using these all across the county," said Morgan County Schools Director Edd Diden.
"They're a pacesetter for Tennessee. We're going to see other districts starting to use natural gas and propane in their school buses," said East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition Executive Director Jonathan Overly.
The East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition helped the school system to implement the new buses.
They began looking into it about five years ago, concerned for the health of bus riders.
"School buses are unique vehicles because you can end up with more of the emissions that come off the engine in the bus rather than out of the tailpipe," said Overly.
They wanted a cleaner, healthier way to transport students.
"Those natural gas buses are about a 90 percent reduction in particulate matter, so the kids that ride those buses get a huge benefit," said Overly.
The Knox family, whose son, Logan, has ridden a Morgan County school bus for the last four years, came out Saturday to take a look at his new ride.
"As a parent, it's relieving. Just to know that my child will not only be safer on this bus, but it's also better for the environment," said Jennifer Knox, of Wartburg.
"Students aren't the only ones benefiting from these alternative fuel buses.
Bus drivers say these new buses are much quieter than the traditional ones, which helps them stay more aware of what's going on behind them on their way to and from school.
"The diesel engine is right up beside you, and it's hard to hear the kids, or what the kids are doing in the back. This one's very quiet, and you can hear what's going on your bus," said Melissa Duncan, a bus driver with Morgan County Schools.
This new innovation came with a price tag.
The buses cost nearly $34,000 more than traditional buses.
In the long run, the school system hopes to not only make up the difference, but save even more money on top of that.
"We think we can recoup that difference in fuel savings in less than five years," said Diden.
Diden says he's already received calls from other school systems across the state, interested in using alternative fuel buses and asking for his advice.
They hope to use these new buses for at least the next 15 years.
They also want to purchase more of them over the next few academic years.