HomePartner UpdatesAchieve Financial and Environmental Sustainability with Propane Autogas

Achieve Financial and Environmental Sustainability with Propane Autogas

Propane autogas is a proven and available alternative fuel that can reduce emissions while lowering operating costs.

This content is brought to you by the Propane Education & Research Council. 

When it comes to alternative fuels, there’s a myth that if school transportation directors want to lower emissions to meet sustainability goals, they’re going to have to pay more to do it. It’s often one of the reasons many districts are initially reluctant to consider energy sources besides gasoline or diesel.

But as more than a thousand districts have come to realize, that’s just not the case. Transitioning to an alternative fuel doesn’t mean that school districts have to pay more to operate a clean fleet. In fact, there’s an alternative energy source available today that can reduce harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 96% compared to diesel, reduce a school district’s carbon footprint, and still provide transportation directors with the lowest total cost of ownership of any fuel: propane autogas.

Thanks to its low fuel and maintenance costs, propane autogas has helped many districts provide a safe, clean, healthy ride for students without compromising on range, performance, or costs. Compared to electric, a propane bus is one-third the price of an electric bus, which allows districts to remove aging diesel fleets more quickly.

Every day more than 1.3 million children ride to school in 22,000 school buses across the country. Here’s how more than a thousand school districts have been able to achieve environmental sustainability without sacrificing on financial sustainability.

Consider the Cost of the Fuel

Historically, the cost of propane autogas itself is consistently less than both gasoline and diesel. Propane autogas can beat diesel on price per gallon by as much as 50%. The price also doesn’t fluctuate as sharply as that of other fuels, so transportation directors are able to manage fuel budgets and meet year-end objectives more easily. And because propane is domestically produced in so much abundance that nearly two-thirds of the energy produced in the U.S. is exported, it’s more protected from international market volatility.

As another layer of protection against fluctuating fuel prices, propane autogas retailers will work with school districts to create a contract that allows transportation directors to lock in a set price per gallon over a period of time agreeable to both parties. Because propane autogas is widely available across the U.S., transportation directors looking to make the switch can work with a local propane supplier to select and install refueling infrastructure at little to no cost to the district in exchange for the fuel contract.

Evaluate Maintenance Costs

The second way that many transportation directors realize cost savings with propane autogas is in the maintenance costs. Compared to a diesel engine, maintaining a propane autogas engine is overall more cost-effective and convenient. For starters, propane autogas engines require less oil by volume than diesel engines, which can decrease preventative maintenance costs at each interval over the life of a vehicle.

Propane autogas emissions systems are also less complex because the energy source is clean, eliminating the need for costly additional fluids and filters like diesel emissions fluid (DEF) and diesel particulate filters (DPF). Even as more low-emissions diesel technology becomes available, the added maintenance costs and inconveniences that come with this technology might be overlooked. Transportation directors will spend additional time, money, and effort to maintain these emissions systems that will only get more expensive as emission standards become increasingly stricter. Additionally, school districts can’t afford the necessary downtime for taking a bus out of rotation to complete those repairs.

Compared to gasoline, engines powered by propane autogas use oil with fewer residual contaminants that can cause engine wear, and also have less carbon buildup on the valves that naturally occurs in gasoline engines. Simply put, transportation departments enjoy lower maintenance costs with propane autogas.

Take Advantage of Available Financial Assistance

Although the total cost of ownership for propane autogas vehicles is substantially less without relying on financial incentives, there are many funding sources for school districts that transition to propane autogas. Most notably, the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program is providing $5 billion in funding through 2026 for clean school buses, which includes propane autogas. While several rounds of funding have already been approved, school districts can still take advantage of the program over the next several years. Details on the program can be found here.

Transportation directors can also apply for the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit, which provides them the opportunity to claim a credit for every gasoline gallon equivalent of propane autogas purchased, or about 37 cents per gallon. Transportation directors interested in taking advantage of these tax credits should consult their own tax advisers first regarding any claims for credits or refunds.

Additional opportunities are also available through other federal and state grants. Fleets should check with their area Clean Cities Coalition to learn more about what funding may be available where they live.

While all of these cost savings are great for the bottom line, the real benefit here is to the children who ride the bus and the neighborhoods in which these school bus fleets operate. With significant reductions in harmful emissions, school districts that go green with propane autogas are contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment for their students, their drivers, and their community.

Transportation directors interested in learning more about propane autogas vehicles can visit Propane.com/School-Transportation.

Tucker Perkins is the president and CEO for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at tucker.perkins@propane.com.

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