Taxpayer Savings

In these times, taxpayers expect governments to do more with less. Moving to propane buses will allow school districts to do just that. In fact, the savings achieved by replacing old diesel fleets with new propane buses are so significant that propane buses will pay for themselves. Case in point — Mesa School District in Arizona, where day time temperatures are over 100 degrees. They are finding that their new propane school buses save about $.40 per mile, which translates into a projected lifetime savings of over $104,000 per bus compared to diesel. That’s more than the cost of a new bus! So propane buses are not only about being Green, they are about saving Green. Here’s why propane saves so much.


On average, propane fuel costs far less than diesel fuel. Today, diesel gas costs about $3.50 per gallon, while propane autogas costs about $1.50 per gallon. Due to the relative abundance of propane that is produced entirely in North America, most experts believe that propane prices will remain steady. In contrast, diesel prices are as volatile as gasoline. On top of it, propane users get a $.50 per gallon tax credit for using an alternative fuel, courtesy of the United States government. The bottomline is that propane costs about three times less than diesel fuel, with this difference likely to grow over time. As an average school bus travels around 20,000 mile each year, the rest is just math.


Propane buses also require less oil, grease, and other items to operate than diesel. There also is no spillage or theft of fuel. So here again, propane has a cost advantage that is about 30% less than diesel.


Propane buses also hold the promise of lower long term maintenance costs, though this is hard to quantify as both propane and “clean” diesel technologies are new so there is no long term track record for either. But we do know that propane engines are a much simpler technology, while the new diesel engines have added complicated and intricate new air pollution devices to meet Clean Air Act standards. This usually translates into increased repair costs. Fleet managers are also reporting extended intervals between required regular maintenance compared to diesel technologies.


Miami-Dade Schools estimated that it would save $13 million in maintenance and repair costs over five years by purchasing just three hundred new buses instead of running and maintaining the same number of old buses, and these are savings resulting from replacing old diesel buses with new diesel buses. Today, with propane buses, these savings would be even greater.


Propane buses also are projected to have longer useful lives, due in part to the use of simpler and cleaner technology. Fleet lives for propane vehicles are reported to be two to three years longer. This translates into longer amortization periods for capital costs, and longer time frames over which school districts can recover the value of their capital investment.


So Florida schools can potentially save about $.40 per mile. And an average Florida bus does about 225,000 miles in its lifetime, which means a total lower cost of operation compared to diesel of around $90,000. Throw in savings from extended warranties, longer life spans of propane buses, new alternative fuel rebates, and districts can pretty much cover the cost of a new propane bus for what they would spend on a diesel bus. With over 6,000 buses on the road more than eleven years old, school districts are looking at over $600 million of expenses in the next few years to replace their fleets. School districts can cover a large part of this from savings from propane buses. The choice is clear. It’s time to move forward with propane.