In the latest round of Clean School Bus funding announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), school transportation directors once again have the power to take advantage of propane’s benefits through dedicated propane autogas school buses or propane-powered recharging infrastructure.
For every propane autogas bus purchased through the program, the EPA will provide transportation directors with up to $35,000. The program prioritizes high-need local educational agencies, rural, and tribal school districts. As an affordable, portable, and available energy source, propane is an ideal solution for these prioritized categories.
“Every child deserves to have a safe, clean, healthy ride to school. If we keep pouring money only into expensive electric buses—even with rebates or grants—only a select number of students will be able to see that reality. We need to face facts that it will take a mix of energy sources to achieve that goal,” said Steve Whaley, director of autogas business development with the Propane Education & Research Council.
In 2022, the EPA solicited applications for $1 billion for zero-emission and low-emission school bus rebates. The $1 billion from this first round of funding paid for 2,350 electric school buses. The funding also awarded 109 low-emission propane buses. The same amount of money distributed for electric buses could have helped fund as many as 29,000 propane buses, assuming each bus received the $30,000 incentive from the program.
When considering well-to-wheel emissions, the 2,350 diesel buses the grant replaced with electric will reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by just 665 metric tons per year and carbon dioxide emissions by only 36,870 metric tons. If the funds had gone toward the 29,000 propane buses to replace diesel, it would have reduced nearly 10 times the amount of NOx emissions and three times the amount of carbon dioxide emissions.
“The true energy mix lies somewhere between all propane autogas or all electric buses,” Whaley said. “To further lower the cost for school districts applying for electric buses, the propane industry is now providing propane-powered recharging systems as an affordable and resilient infrastructure solution.”
Propane-powered charging infrastructure uses microgrid technology powered by renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and a propane generator to reliably recharge school buses independent of the grid, providing a portable option that can be installed in as little as 24 hours. With the grant, school districts can apply for up to $395,000 that can be split between an electric bus and its charging infrastructure, including propane-powered options.
Applications must be submitted electronically through Grants.gov no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023.