What are Propane Powered School Buses?

BlueBirdPropaneVisionThe Case for Propane-Powered School Buses

Autogas reduces emissions and bus repair costs

Propane has fueled vehicles for nearly 100 years. Improvements in engine technology have made it more viable as a fuel that is cost-efficient and environmentally friendly.

Propane gas has been used as vehicle fuel for nearly 100 years. It has become a more prominent option as engine technology improves and Americans seek ways to continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Among the most prominent users of autogas — propane for vehicles — are school districts and private companies that manage school bus fleets. In general, bus fleet managers find autogas is less expensive and vehicle maintenance costs go down.

A Portland, Oregon, School District started using autogas-powered buses in 1983. Now its fleet of more than 325 vehicles is almost completely converted. The district told CleanFUEL USA that the average cost of autogas has been less than gasoline. Also, autogas vehicles last almost twice as long as those powered by gasoline or diesel.

In Deming, New Mexico, school officials say they saved nearly $3,000 a year per bus when the district added five autogas buses in 2009. In addition to that benefit, the buses are quieter.

Although autogas-powered buses are more expensive to purchase and the buses generally get less mileage per gallon, the lower cost of the fuel more than makes up the difference. Public agencies that run autogas-powered vehicles qualify for a rebate on the federal fuel excise tax of 50 cents a gallon. In Maine, the fuel tax on autogas is 17.8 cents a gallon, while the tax on gasoline and diesel is 30 cents a gallon. (http://www.state.me.us/revenue/fueltax/fueltaxrates.htm)

In Gainesville, Ga., school officials bought 20 new autogas buses over the summer and then purchased propane in bulk at a cost of $1.50 a gallon, less than half of the current price for diesel fuel. (http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/section/6/article/76249/)

Propane autogas-fueled vehicles work much like gasoline-fueled vehicles with spark-ignited engines. Propane is stored as a liquid in a relatively low-pressure tank (about 300 pounds per square inch). Propane travels along a fuel line into the engine compartment. The supply of propane to the engine is controlled by a regulator or vaporizer, which converts the propane to a vapor. The vapor is fed to a mixer located near the intake manifold, where it is metered and mixed with filtered air before being drawn into the combustion chamber where it is burned to produce power, just like gasoline.

Bus manufacturing companies such as Collins Bus Corp. and Blue Bird make buses that run on autogas and that meet all government standards for school bus construction. The Maine Department of Transportation manages a Transportation Efficiency Fund to help with the purchase of alternative-fuel vehicles that reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

If you have questions about using autogas to fuel school buses, please call us at R.H. Foster Energy. We’re committed to helping our state find cost-effective fuel alternatives that reduce pollution.

Key take-away:

School districts can save money and improve the environment by using buses fueled by autogas.

Call R.H. Foster for more information about propane / autogas as a fuel for school buses and other vehicles.