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Propane buses provide benefits, cost savings

propane busesOver the past two years, San Antonio ISD has been awarded four grants totaling more the $2.25 million, which will be used to buy propane buses for the District’s fleet. The grant monies, which come from both state and national agencies, have been used to purchase 43 buses so far, with an additional 20 to be purchased in the future.


The most recent grant was awarded to the District in August from Texas Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust settlement through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.


“We are the first school district in Bexar County to get funds from the settlement,” said Nathan Graf, SAISD senior executive director of transportation.


The settlement is a result of litigation over emissions control defeat devices that were found to have been installed on vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen and its subsidiaries. SAISD was the first school district in Texas to apply for the VW funds back in May, and the funds are required to be used to get away from diesel.


“You could buy propane school buses, CNG (compressed natural gas) buses, or even electric buses if you wanted to,” said Graf. “For us, propane buses are not only the most cost-effective but they are better for the environment as they produce less soot and nitrogen dioxide than diesel buses.”


The cost savings are substantial when comparing propane buses to diesel buses. Graf says the cost of fueling a propane bus is half of what it costs to fuel a diesel bus, and the maintenance costs of a propane bus are also typically half of what it takes to maintain a diesel bus. In addition to the cost-saving benefits, students and bus drivers are also benefiting from the new buses.


“Drivers can better hear the students on a propane bus, and have a dialog with them,” said Graf. “You can’t really do that on a diesel because it is so noisy. Plus, typically with a diesel bus, you are able to smell the fuel, but with propane, you don’t have that smell at all. This is really beneficial to our students who may suffer from asthma or other breathing conditions.”


Currently, 30 percent of the SAISD bus fleet is propane. With the addition of the buses from the VW funds, that number will increase to 45 percent. Graf says that the goal is to eventually have propane buses compose 70 percent of the fleet.


“The reason that we will never be a 100-percent propane fleet is that we need a certain number of buses able to do out-of-town field trips,” said Graf. “It is easier to buy diesel out on the road than it is propane.”


Graf says that he and his team are excited for the progress that has been made over the past two years to make the SAISD fleet more environmentally sound and cost-effective.


“To have received almost 2.3 million in grants and have made 45 percent of our fleet propane in under two years is really pretty amazing,” he said. “ It’s a team effort, and I am so thankful to be working with such a dedicated team here in SAISD Transportation.”


propane tank

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