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District: Switch to Propane Proves Cost-Effective

The Pike-Delta-York (PDY) School District in Ohio is discovering the budgetary benefits of school buses powered by propane autogas. 

The district decided to test the cost-efficiency of alternative fuels a few years ago due to financial hardships.
Transportation Supervisor Jim Wolpert was told to continue with his current fleet, or find a different way of doing things. Around the same time a district board member was exploring the benefits of alternative fuels and, specifically, propane autogas at a Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) conference. That was how the idea of switching the PDY to propane school buses was born. Next came researching the potential effects.
According to Wolpert, no other district in the surrounding region was using propane, so he had no examples to look toward for possible long-term results. The district had also considered other alternative buses, such as electric and natural gas buses. However, they ultimately decided to go with propane after careful research and consideration of its economic benefits, as well as other pluses including being produced in domestically and being easy to dispense.“We learned a great deal from the Propane Council, and we were able to see several fuels demonstrated by bus manufacturers,” said Wolpert of the conference.
The next challenge came in figuring out how the transition to propane autogas buses would be funded. The district’s board was initially skeptical of the transition, particularly the costs involved. They narrowly approved the proposal for three new propane buses by a vote of 3-2.With the board’s approval, the district proactively sought out help with securing grant money. This help came from Clean Fuels Ohio (CFO), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the use of clean and alternative fuels in the state.
“We received notice of federal funding in August 2009, and PDY was one of the first project partners to complete its grant application,” explained Megan Stein, CFO grants manager. “We worked with the district to identify which grants would be most advantageous to the school, and then assisted PDY with all the details. Funding was awarded to the district in early 2010.”
The grants also covered the costs of building a propane fueling station on district grounds.
In the last few years, the Pike-Delta York districts has in fact seen a reduction on fuel and operating costs, just as they had anticipated when they decided to transition to propane. Now Wolpert has found himself fielding calls from districts around the country considering the switch to propane buses.
These buses have not just been a hit with transporters, but with students as well.
“The kids are truly excited about riding in a bus that uses alternative fuels,” said Wolpert. “They tell their parents, ‘We have a green bus,’ and their parents call me to learn more about the program.”

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