They are much quieter. The are better for the environment. They need less maintenance.
And they are a bit more expensive to buy.
Local school districts are beginning to follow a national trend whereby diesel-powered school buses are being replaced with those powered by propane, also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
On Tuesday, voters in three local school districts — Arlington, Highland and Red Hook — will weigh propositions for the purchase of vehicles that would include propane buses.
Several other districts are asking voters to approve vehicle purchases, but none that are propane.
"I think it is something we are going to look hard at for 2017," Pine Plains Superintendent Martin Handler said. District officers at Hyde Park, New Paltz and Wappingers said they, too, are considering future purchases.
Vehicles powered by alternative fuels have been growing in recent decades. According to the Department of Energy, there were 247,000 vehicles powered by fuels other than gasoline in use in 1995. By 2011, the most recent year data are available, that number had grown to 1.2 million.
School buses have been at the forefront of propane. In 2014, the DOE published a case study that examined four school districts in Texas and one in Virginia that had purchased the buses with federal stimulus money. It found the districts saved nearly 50 percent on a cost-per-mile basis for fuel and maintenance relative to diesel.
"If you are a fleet manager, you are either buying or considering buying them," said Tucker Perkins, chief business development officer for the Propane Education & Research Council.
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