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March 13, 2012  |   Comments (4)   |   Post a comment

Ore. district sees cost savings from propane buses


PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Public Schools (PPS) is reportedly seeing cost savings as a result of running many of the buses in its fleet on propane.

The district began exploring alternative fuels in the 1980s because of high gas prices and clean air regulations. In 1983, PPS converted several buses to run on propane and found that it was more cost-effective than conventional fuels and burned cleaner, resulting in less engine maintenance and reduced emissions. Shortly thereafter, the district converted most of its buses to run on the fuel.

PPS currently operates some of its own buses and contracts with First Student to provide additional transportation services. Eighty percent of all the buses are fueled by propane.

(As SBF previously reported, the district began running its first propane-powered Type A school buses from Collins Bus Corp. in October 2010.)

In terms of maintenance benefits, PPS’ Fleet Maintenance Supervisor Melvin Philbrook said that the propane-powered buses run up to 30,000 miles longer than buses fueled by gasoline.

The district is also saving through lower fuel costs. “PPS’ projections for 2012 show a 50-percent savings for its propane autogas purchases when compared to those for gasoline,” added Andy Leibenguth, transportation director for the district.

Within the next several years, the school district expects its contracted bus provider to buy a considerable number of new buses, all of which will be factory-built to run on propane. Leibenguth said First Student is expecting delivery of 90 propane-powered NexBus units from Collins Bus Corp.

PPS also began installing upgraded fuel dispensing equipment to support its onsite refueling infrastructure. The new station will allow two buses to be fueled at once and will track miles per gallon for each bus, as well as district fuel cost savings.

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Read more about: Collins Bus Corp., First Student Inc., Oregon, propane, Type A/small buses

Hi Tara, This message is in response to your questions. We were able to get in touch with the transportation director at the district, and we passed on your questions to him. This is what he said: Our initial conversion to propane autogas took place back in the mid 1980s and I do not have data on how long it took to recoup the cost. I do know that the fuel savings more than offset the cost of converting over the lifespan of the vehicle. With new technology buses fueled by propane autogas available directly from manufactures, we will recoup the cost of the propane option in roughly four years, resulting in significant overall fuel savings over the full life of the vehicle. We are currently tracking a U.S. Senate bill that, if passed, would cover the cost of the propane autogas option on newly purchased vehicles, help pay for fueling infrastructure, as well as extend a $.50 per gallon credit for using alternative fuel through 2016. School Bus Fleet reported on this recently and can be found here: I hope this helps. Sincerely, Kelly Roher SBF Managing Editor

Kelly Roher    |    Mar 23, 2012 03:06 PM

I think it is great to see Alt fuels being used in Or. There are many other Alt fuels buses that are doing a good job too....CNG, Hybrids, Plug-in Hybrids, engine off Ford E450 gas special needs units, wow....good thought....gas is less per gal then diesel (.50) in a hybrid that get the same as a diesel bus (savings on fuel & clean both) that is a win win. Keep your eye out for the electric buses to make a come back maybe? We all know the price of fuel is not going back down to where all this started this year. It is just another step stone to give us a higher starting point for next year. You have to look at the life of that alt fuel bus and see what you really save. Everybody have a Great & Clean day!!

Ralph Knight    |    Mar 19, 2012 06:24 PM

My district is currently running one propane type c bus and is seeing a minimum of 20 cents per mile savings on fuel cost over diesel. I would like to see more stories in SBF Magazine on propane fuel, I believe it is the way of the future for school buses. Besides the fuel savings, environmental affects, & less maintenance costs propane is safer than natural gas because of operating pressures. CNG operates at about 3000 psi while propane operates at less than 175 psi with tank pressures at around 100 psi (both pressures depend on the ambient temp.)

Bryan West    |    Mar 14, 2012 07:35 AM

Did the savings in fuel off set the cost of converting to propane? In the life of the bus will the savings in fuel off set the cost of switching to propane?

Tara Porter    |    Mar 14, 2012 04:23 AM

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