The school district, located in northeastern Missouri, is buying nine propane school buses to...

The school district, located in northeastern Missouri, is buying nine propane school buses to replace diesel buses that are about 20 years old. Ultimately, the district aims for a totally propane-fueled school bus fleet.

Photo: Hannibal Public School District No. 60

Missouri’s Hannibal Public School District No. 60 is tapping funds from incentive programs such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus Program and the state’s Propane Education & Research Council to pursue plans for a fully propane-fueled fleet.

“As we researched the various alternative fuels, propane stood out as the best option for our school district,” said Scott Speer, the district’s transportation director.

The district, located in northeastern Missouri, got two propane buses, with four more en route and three on order. With the addition of these new propane buses, 22% of the district’s fleet is expected to soon run on clean, low-emission fuel.

Why Propane?

The nine buses are replacing diesel buses that are about 20 years old and emit known carcinogens. Propane autogas is promoted as a nontoxic, non-carcinogenic, and non-corrosive fuel. It’s classified as a non-contaminant by the EPA.

Four of the new buses are made possible by funding through the first round of the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program.  The district is also receiving a $2,000 per bus rebate through the Missouri Propane Education & Research Council (MOPERC), which has pledged $1 million to help school districts transition to propane models.

Affordability proved a deciding factor for the district when it considered which clean alternative to seek out for its school bus fleet.

“Electric buses are very popular right now,” Speer said. “However, an electric bus costs more than three times the amount of a diesel-powered bus.”

The district reviewed the initial purchase price of buses, infrastructure, fuel, and ongoing maintenance costs.

“When comparing infrastructure costs, compressed natural gas would have required an extensive renovation to our facilities, and that has a significant cost,” Speer said. “Conversely, propane is incredibly stable and does not require our facility to undergo extensive renovations. Furthermore, propane itself is a much more affordable fuel than diesel. Simply put: propane was a way that Hannibal transportation could save taxpayer dollars while providing a cleaner alternative to diesel.”

Buses fueled by propane autogas can provide lower total cost of ownership for school districts by saving on fuel, fluids, and filters, according to MOPERC. “Supplies such as diesel particulate filters, manual regeneration and diesel exhaust fluid, and other complex after-treatment devices aren’t needed on a propane bus,” a news release state. “Oil changes on propane buses are also simpler and less expensive.”

Hoping to Realize Meaningful Savings

Propane supplier Big River Oil is partnering with the school district to help with buying and installing infrastructure needed to fuel propane buses on school property.

“Propane school buses are better for our children, better for our community, and better for the environment,” said Steve Ahrens, president of MOPERC. “They eliminate harmful tailpipe emissions while stretching taxpayer dollars. Hannibal School District No. 60 is truly making a wise investment.”

The district, which runs a fleet of 37 buses, currently pays $4.10 per gallon of diesel and $1.69 per gallon of propane. The alternative fuel federal excise tax credit is expected to further accelerate fuel savings for the district by 37 cents per gallon.

“Any savings from propane buses will be used to help support a high-quality education for all of Hannibal’s students,” Speer said.

Today, more than 300 propane buses operate in Missouri, with more than 20,000 in use across the country.

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