Fifteen years ago, the Delaware school district couldn’t wait to get rid of its propane-fueled buses.
Now it can’t wait to start using them again.
The district purchased a fleet of propane-fueled school buses in the 1970s and early 1980s, during the oil crisis, but officials said the vehicles proved to be unreliable and inefficient.
Jason Sherman, the district’s director of facilities and transportation, said they couldn’t wait to get rid of the old buses, but now they’re ready to give propane a second chance.
“The new propane-fueled buses have proved to be a more viable option than they were years ago,” Sherman said. “New technology has improved the way the fuel injection works, which means less breakdowns and no messing with an evaporator.”
The district has a fleet of 50 school buses; of that number, 44 are diesel-fueled and three use gasoline. The district purchased three new propane-fueled vehicles.
More districts are purchasing propane-fueled buses because, officials said, even though the price is higher, the savings in the long-run prove to be worth it.
The Big Walnut Local school district bought three propane-fueled buses last year, and officials there were so pleased with them they purchased another three.
Sherman put together a cost-savings chart to roughly estimate how much the buses would save over the course of their life. The buses are expected to last for 12 years, and he’s anticipating a savings of $26,448 over that time, which averages about $2,204 each year.
Sherman said he tried to consider other factors as well, including fuel economy. Even though propane fuel is less expensive, the fuel economy is higher, he said.
“Propane doesn’t get as many miles to the gallon as diesel,” he said. “Diesel gets typically seven to eight miles to the gallon, and propane only gets three to four miles to the gallon.
“I had to be careful in my evaluation of the cost-savings because even though it’s cheaper, we’re using a lot more of it,” he said.
Sherman said there didn’t seem to be any glaring downsides to switching to propane-fueled buses. The buses will save money, they produce cleaner emissions and they’re quieter than diesel-fueled buses, he said.
“The buses also start easier in cold weather because they heat up so much faster than diesel-fueled,” he said. “The fuel burns cleaner and we’ll save money over time.”
Sherman said it’s been proven that propane is cleaner, and maintenance is also easier than the diesel-fueled buses.
“Because it burns fuel cleaner, we won’t have to spend time and money on maintenance as much as we do with our diesel-fueled buses. Propane is just a better solution,” he said.
Because of the cost-savings with the propane-fueled buses, they will be used on longer routes for students who live the furthest away, Sherman said.
“Any opportunity we have on the operational side to save money, we have to look at it. The more money we save here, the more we have for our classrooms,” he said.
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