Six South Dakota school districts received Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) funding to purchase emissions-reducing propane autogas school buses. Studies have shown that propane buses emit fewer greenhouse gases, smog-producing hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides compared with the diesel buses.
The six school districts are Brookings, Gayville-Volin, Harrisburg, Lennox, Madison Central, and Yankton. The school district began a three-year pilot program to test propane buses because of the opportunity for cost savings and funding assistance, according to Yankton School District. That district purchased two Blue Bird propane buses through the DENR program and have been awarded rebates for two additional 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. The district said that, on average, its diesel buses cost $5,000 per year to run, while its propane buses are only $2,500. Currently, both school districts have onsite propane fueling stations and pay about half the cost for propane autogas compared with diesel per gallon.
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.
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.