Propane buses offer long-term savings despite initial price tag

Dive Brief:

  • While propane buses cost more than the traditional diesel alternatives, many school districts are footing the bill in favor of lower operating and maintenance costs.
  • District Administration reports the price differential for new buses is $15,000, but a 2014 study by the Argonne National Laboratory found five districts using propane buses saved as much as 50% on a cost-per-mile basis and were able to recoup their costs in three to eight years.
  • Propane-powered buses are still new, which makes their long-term value uncertain, so experts recommend doing a cost analysis before buying, talking to other districts about their experiences, searching for the lowest price on the buses, and investing in training for mechanics as well as a propane fueling station. 

Dive Insight:

School districts across the country are strapped for cash and growing demands for more and better technology in the classroom and high-quality training for teachers often overshadows other operational needs.

Transportation is also an area where some states are reducing reimbursement levels to districts in the face of budget crises. The key question in the switch to propane buses is whether there will be time to recoup the higher initial investment costs. A range of three to eight years is significant, and districts will have to think carefully about how often they replace buses and how the switch to propane will impact the ability to maintain the fleet. 

Recommended Reading

District Administration: Propane bus fleets gain momentum in U.S. schools

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