LP gas, is 90-percent domestically produced. Even cleaner, renewable propane is made by convert- ing plant, vegetable oils and animal fat. “I think it’s a very strong, affordable option, especially when compared to electric,” said Daniel Gage, president of the National Gas Vehicles of America (NGV). “Propane is another great option. … We like to think that the best option is all of the above, with no one correct answer for every situation.” With the latest CNG school buses from ROUSH

CleanTech and Blue Bird meeting the optional EPA certification of 0.02 grams of nitrogen oxides (NOx) per brake/horsepower-hour (alongside its propane cousin), they are deemed “zero-emission equivalent,” Gage explained. He said NOx and particulate matter emissions

are virtually absent from these buses. “When renewable natural gas, also called biomethane, is captured from agricultural, food or landfill waste, the result is often a carbon-neutral or even car- bon-negative product,” he continued. “Another benefit is that the natural gas engines are North American made, a joint venture between Cummins and Westport Fuel Systems out of Vancouver.” Tom Walmer, director of transportation for

Houston County Schools, located south of Ma- con, Georgia, commented that while it’s good to be green, his district made the switch because of rising diesel bus maintenance costs. “Our CNG and propane buses take six quarts of oil com- pared to five gallons for a diesel. There is one oil filter instead of two,” he shared. “We have pro- pane buses of different years, but they all take the same belts, oil, fuel, and air filters. That goes for our CNG buses, too.” Henry County Schools, located southeast of

Atlanta, chose propane. “Knowing propane is a domestically produced, sustainable product that is readily available helped solidify our decision to move to propane buses,” said Cliff Shearouse, the district’s executive director of transportation. Shearouse recalled that in May, propane cost $1.50 a gallon, while diesel cost $2.50 a gallon. Despite diesel getting about 8 mpg compared to propane only getting 4 to 5 mpg, he said the switch still makes financial sense. “My drivers do have to fill up more often, but the buses run much cleaner, and [require] less maintenance,” he added. Shearouse operates 33 Blue Bird propane au-

togas buses in a 350-bus fleet. A local propane distributor supplied the 18,000-gallon tank and filling station. Similar to the CNG product, ROUSH manufactures the propane systems and fuel tanks, then ships the parts to Blue Bird’s factory in Fort Valley, Georgia, for installation. Meanwhile, Walmer is running a pilot program

to compare CNG, propane and diesel school bus- es. In 2016, the district obtained one rear-engine 84-passenger diesel, one rear-engine 84-pas- senger CNG, and one front-engine propane bus. (Rear-engine propane buses are currently unavailable.) “We were trying to do less work on the die-

sels,” said Walmer. “We’re very pleased with both the propane and CNG buses, and we’re going to continue buying both. I’ve gone with propane on my Type C, front-engine special needs buses, and in 2019 we bought five rear-engine Thomas CNG buses.” Walmer said he will have a lot to consider with

future purchases. “Compared with diesel, a new CNG bus [costs] about $40,000 to $43,000 more. So far, a state rebate paid for half. But when I’m able to buy new buses again, I’m really going to have to weigh how much we save in mainte- nance,” Walmer explained. “Can I afford to spend that difference on the alternative fuel bus? If I had the money, I’d buy CNG rear-engines. We’ve had zero service issues with the CNG and pro- pane buses, except for minor things you’d have on any vehicle. The only drawback is the [operat- ing] range.” Walmer also noted that CNG and propane fuel-

ing stations are few and far between. “Without a private entity installing a CNG fueling station in Perry, Georgia, because Frito Lay’s tractor-trailers are their primary customer, I couldn’t have CNG buses. Our propane tank was installed on our property,” he said. However, student transporters have a choice

between purchasing a 60-gallon or a 100-gallon fuel tank on the larger propane buses. CNG fuel tank capacity in gallon equivalents range between the mid-50s and mid-60s.

Lassoing a Charge By far, the most expensive new purchase op-

tion is electric buses. However, there are many grants and opportunities available, and districts 35

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