As districts plan for the upcoming school year (and in some cases, begin transporting students), there’s no doubt one of the major challenges is taking them to and from school safely. Since social distancing guidelines in many cities requires fewer children on each bus, it is likely districts may need more school buses to safely accommodate all students. That is where propane autogas can help district transportation departments solve these new challenges.
With the lowest total cost of ownership of any fuel, propane buses provide districts with cost savings that can ease the budget strains that coronavirus will place on districts this year. Transportation directors can secure a fuel contract, customize an affordable refueling solution, and still focus on reducing emissions with the help of propane-powered buses.
Securing a Fuel Contract
No matter how you approach it, propane costs less than gasoline or diesel. Especially as oil prices fluctuate, propane can beat diesel on price per gallon by as much as 50%. The wholesale cost of propane falls between the price of oil and natural gas, which are the fuel’s two sources. Because of this, propane prices don’t fluctuate as sharply as other fuels, so school districts are able to more easily manage fuel budgets and meet year-end objectives.
Also, many propane suppliers will work with fleet owners to create a contract that allows fleets to lock in a set price per gallon for the year. This is another layer of protection against fluctuating fuel prices. Because propane is widely available across the U.S., school districts looking to make the switch can work with a local propane supplier that can help them select and install an affordable refueling infrastructure and develop a fuel contract to fit their needs.
Customizing a Refueling Option
Propane offers fleets a plethora of refueling options, each of which offer distinct advantages to help districts identify and customize a solution that best fits its routes and maximizes its productivity.
For fleets that prefer to install an onsite refueling location, propane can provide the most affordable infrastructure of any fuel. Fleets can often lease a propane tank, pump, motor, and dispenser from a propane retailer to keep costs low, so firms only pay for site preparation requirements, including electrical installation and crash protection for the fuel tank. This option can support up to 50 school buses with a standard private station, or more than 50 buses with an advanced private station that includes larger gallon tanks, a canopy, and multiple fuel dispensers. Propane suppliers can also provide a temporary refueling setup while a permanent solution is being installed. This generally includes a dispenser and fuel tank mounted on a trailer.
For fleets with limited space where a propane tank installation may not be an option, public refueling stations are a great option. There are more than 3,000 stations across the country that work with the protection of a 24/7 card lock system. This allows fleets to identify and maintain records of vehicles by VIN number, driver, fuel type, and gallons dispensed, as well as the date and time of the transaction for easier cost tracking and record keeping.
Fleets can also work with a propane supplier to arrange mobile refueling: no infrastructure is involved, and a supplier will refuel school buses one by one on site.
Reducing Budgets and Emissions
While budgets will play a critical role this school year, the health and wellness of students is always of utmost importance. Districts across the country are still working to prioritize reducing harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and improving the air quality for students. Propane is the most cost-effective solution for school districts to achieve this goal.In real-world testing, the ultra-low NOx engine performed at a 96% reduction in NOx emissions compared to the best-in-class clean diesel engine, pushing NOx emissions to near-zero levels. Plus, propane is 93% more cost-effective compared to the best-in-class diesel, costing only $0.19 per mile compared to diesel at $0.80 per mile. That means cleaner air for children to breathe at the bus stop and more money that can go back to the classroom.
As districts begin this school year of uncertainty, propane can provide stability. For fleets interested in learning more or considering making the switch to propane, the Propane Education and Research Council has created online learning resources developed specifically with the current situation in mind as online learning opportunities have taken on more importance.
Steve Whaley is the director of autogas business development for the Propane Education and Research Council. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.