South Dakota school districts add emission-reducing propane buses

Six South Dakota school districts received Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) funding to purchase emissions-reducing propane autogas school buses. The districts chose Blue Bird Vision Propane buses because they emit fewer greenhouse gases, smog-producing hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides compared with the diesel buses replaced, and propane operating costs are significantly lower.

The six school districts are Brookings, Gayville-Volin, Harrisburg, Lennox, Madison Central and Yankton.

“Our school district began a three-year pilot program to test propane buses because of the opportunity for cost savings and funding assistance,” said Tony Anderson, transportation supervisor of Yankton School District. “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.”

Harrisburg School District operates eight Blue Bird propane buses in which five were purchased using funding. Since first adopting propane two years ago, the district has 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,” says 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 school districts have onsite propane fueling stations and pay about half the cost for propane autogas compared with diesel per gallon.

“With more than 19,000 low-emissions Blue Bird propane buses on the road — four times the number of all of our competitors combined — 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 Corporation, adding that the buses were purchased through local Blue Bird dealer North Central Bus & Equipment.

Propane school buses reduce harmful nitrogen oxides by 96%, according to a 2019 study by West Virginia University. Exposure to nitrogen oxide exhaust can have negative health effects on children and is a leading cause of asthma, according to the EPA.

“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,” said Ryan Zic, vice president of school bus sales for ROUSH CleanTech.

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 the new propane buses. The propane buses also qualify for federal alternative fuel excise tax credits, which covers $.36 per gallon of propane purchased.