Smart Schools Travel on Propane Buses
Propane vehicles are becoming increasingly popular. Many companies are switching their fleet vehicles to propane from the more expensive gas and diesel engine options. Propane provides a wide variety of benefits that you just can’t get from other fuel options. The infrastructure needed to fuel vehicles with propane is constantly expanding, and new propane stations are coming on-line nearly every day. Now many school districts are seeing the benefits of making the switch to “go green” with propane-fueled school buses.
In the United States, nearly half a million school buses are used by school districts and private transportation companies to transport students to and from school and ferry them to after-school activities and sporting events. It is estimated that 95% of these school buses are still fueled by diesel. Many school districts are seeing cut after cut to their budgets, and transportation is one area that administrators can cut spending without taking away from students’ educational opportunities. To stretch each dollar as far as possible, school officials are looking into alternative fuels for school buses. One of the ways that administrators can get more for less out of their transportation budget is to switch buses and other vehicles to propane power.
So, let’s talk cost. The up-front cost for propane itself is much less than diesel. Propane is approximately one-third of the cost of diesel fuel. However, many locales offer incentives and rebates, further cutting the costs of this fuel source. Many school officials report that their bills for fuel for their fleet are cut by up to 80% when they make the conversion to propane. Buses powered by propane do get slightly less fuel economy than diesel-powered buses. An engine powered by propane sees about 10% less miles to the gallon than those that run on diesel fuel. There is also an additional up-front cost; a propane-powered school bus costs about $3,000 more than its diesel-powered counterpart. However, depending upon how many miles are covered in routes, this additional cost is offset in just a month or two of driving the bus. Most school buses remain in the fleet for around 20 years; officials say that switching to propane power can save up to $100,000 per bus over its 20-year lifespan. This is an amazing cost reduction and allows funds formerly used for fuel to go to other aspects of a child’s education.
What about the benefits to the environment? It’s common knowledge that propane just burns cleaner than diesel. This is a great benefit of using propane, and can set a great example for young people. A study done a few years ago showed that the air inside a diesel-powered school bus was five to ten times dirtier than the air outside. This is due largely to the diesel fumes entering the bus each time the doors opened to let students enter or exit the vehicle. Not so with propane, however. Since this fuel burns cleaner, the air inside the bus will also be cleaner. This is a huge health benefit to drivers and passengers alike.
The switch to propane is fairly easy. Buses that currently run on diesel can be converted to run on propane. School bus manufacturers such as the iconic Blue Bird brand are also rolling propane-powered buses off the assembly lines. Blue Bird has also won several recent awards for their propane-powered bus models, and experts say that Blue Bird alone has increased the number of propane-powered buses by four times in one year. Propane consistently proves its worth as a great alternative to traditional fuels like gasoline and diesel.