What Will Be Your Fuel of the Future?

Among the myriad topics that school bus operators discussed at the 2016 School Bus eXchange (SBX) in April were questions about fuel choices.

Roundtable participants weighed the pros and cons of diesel, gasoline, and alternative fuels. There was no clear favorite fuel, but one takeaway was that maintenance challenges with diesel emission systems are prompting many fleets to consider other fuels for their school buses.

In analyzing our most recent school bus sales data, for the 2015 sales year, we can identify some interesting trends in the fuel types.

Diesel still accounts for the lion’s share of new school buses. In the 2015 sales year, 31,262 (78%) of the total 40,190 school buses sold in the U.S. and Canada were diesel.

Meanwhile, sales of propane school buses have been steadily increasing in recent years. In 2015, there were 2,160 propane school buses sold, which was 5% of the total sales units.

The propane school bus sales in 2015 were an increase of 340 units, or 19%, compared to propane school bus sales in 2014.

More anecdotally, we’re hearing about many fleets buying more propane buses after testing out their initial purchase of them. For example, Bibb County (Ga.) School District recently added 22 new propane buses to its fleet after being pleased with the performance of its previously purchased 31 propane buses. Now, the propane units make up 25% of the district’s total school bus fleet.

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