A total of six South Dakota school districts have received funding from the state's Department...

A total of six South Dakota school districts have received funding from the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources to purchase Blue Bird Vision propane school buses. Shown here are six of Harrisburg School District's propane buses.

Photo courtesy Roush CleanTech

Six South Dakota school districts have received funding to replace some of their aging diesel school buses with propane buses.

The funding, from the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s (DENR’s) Clean Diesel Grant Program, was used to purchase Blue Bird Vision propane buses for Brookings School District 5-1, Gayville-Volin School District 63-1, Harrisburg School District, Lennox School District, Madison Central School District 39-2, and Yankton School District 63-3, according to a news release from Blue Bird and Roush CleanTech.

DENR’s Clean Diesel Grant Program is supported by the state’s Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) and Volkswagen (VW) settlement funding, according to the agency’s website.

Because the Roush CleanTech propane fuel system is certified to meet the California Air Resources Board’s low-nitrogen oxide standards, Yankton and Harrisburg school districts received DENR funding to cover 35% of the purchase price for their propane buses. The propane buses also qualify for federal alternative fuel excise tax credits, which covers $0.36 per gallon of propane purchased, according to the school bus manufacturer and propane systems supplier.

“Our school district began a three-year pilot program [in fall 2020] to test propane buses because of the opportunity for cost savings and funding assistance,” said Tony Anderson, transportation supervisor for Yankton School District 63-3. “We purchased two Blue Bird propane buses through the DENR program and have been awarded rebates for two additional propane buses. With their lower maintenance, cleaner emissions, and quieter ride, we plan to keep buying propane buses.”

Meanwhile, neighboring Harrisburg School District operates a total of eight Blue Bird Vision propane buses (five of which were purchased using funding from the DENR), according to Blue Bird and Roush CleanTech. Since first adopting propane two years ago, the district has reportedly seen substantial cost savings.

“Our Blue Bird propane buses have cut our costs in half. On average, our diesel buses cost $5,000 per year to run, while our propane buses are only $2,500,” said Lance Gerry, fleet manager for Harrisburg School District. “On top of that, we’re saving $50 per oil change compared to diesel. The savings add up quickly.”

Currently, both Yankton and Harrisburg school districts have onsite propane fueling stations and pay about half the cost for propane compared with diesel per gallon, according to the school bus manufacturer and propane systems supplier.

“With more than 19,000 low-emissions Blue Bird propane buses on the road…these districts join over 1,000 of our customers who are lessening their impact on the environment with our propane buses,” said David Bercik, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Blue Bird, adding that the buses were purchased through local Blue Bird dealer North Central Bus and Equipment.

“Roush CleanTech’s advanced propane autogas technology is helping states like South Dakota tackle their air quality problems and budget challenges by operating economical, emissions-reducing school buses,” added Ryan Zic, vice president of school bus sales for Roush CleanTech.

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