LEWISTOWN, Mo. — Lewis County C-1 School District in northeast Missouri has taken a big step forward to substantially reduce harmful emissions and costs by adding four propane autogas school buses to its fleet. Propane school buses are clean and affordable solutions that eliminate the particulate matter and harmful emissions found with diesel buses.
The district purchased four 2022 IC Bus propane buses in fall 2020, which operate on regular routes that span 410 square miles and five counties.
“Anything we can do to provide a cleaner environment and less pollution being breathed in by our students is something I believe strongly in striving to accomplish,” said John French, superintendent of Lewis County C-1 School District. “We believe the savings gained from our alternative fueled propane school buses will eventually lead to more money going into the classroom, which will, in turn, reduce the local tax burden.”
Propane is a nontoxic, non-carcinogenic and non-corrosive fuel, and is classified as a non-contaminant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Missouri students, bus drivers and personnel who ride propane school buses have significantly reduced exposure to harmful nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, soot and particulate matter. There are more than 300 propane buses operating in Missouri and more than 20,000 across the nation.
“Diesel school buses emit toxic chemicals that can damage the lungs and irritate the skin and eyes of children,” said Steve Ahrens, president of the Missouri Propane Education & Research Council. “With propane school buses, Lewis County has taken an important step to safeguard the health of its students, staff and community. It’s important to note that the district will achieve reduced emissions while also significantly lowering its fuel and maintenance costs. We’ve seen this when districts adopt propane fleets that replace diesel buses—transportation funding is freed up for education funding. That helps taxpayers breathe a little easier, too.”
French said the district received Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust grant funds totaling $20,000 per bus for two of the propane buses, and $37,500 per bus for the other two. Additionally, the district received a $2,000 rebate per bus through the Missouri Propane Education & Research Council. The Council, created by state statute to provide propane safety and education programs, has pledged $1 million to help school districts transition from diesel buses to propane models.
French said the district currently operates 18 diesel buses, paying about $2.25 per gallon, compared with propane at $1.55 per gallon. The federal alternative fuel excise tax credit of 36 cents per gallon brings the district’s propane cost to $1.19.
Propane buses have no cold-start issues. “Being in the northeast part of Missouri, we get pretty darn cold temperatures,” French said. “When we get below zero, diesel sometimes gels up, and we don’t have that problem with propane.”
The district currently fuels its propane buses at a local provider site, but is considering the addition of on-site propane infrastructure, which includes a tank and a dispenser. Many propane retailers will install a fueling station for low or zero cost with a fueling contract.
The Missouri Propane Education & Research Council is a not-for-profit organization authorized by the Missouri Legislature. Dedicated to propane education and public awareness, MOPERC provides industry training, consumer safety, appliance rebates and market development programs. The council is composed of 15 volunteer directors and administered by an executive staff. Visit PropaneMissouri.com.