Propane School BusTo save money on bus fuel, some districts are turning to propane.

In 2013, USA Today reported that about 95 percent of buses still ran on diesel fuel, but that many districts across the country were beginning to invest in propane buses.

Propane buses require more up-front investment (they're about $3,000 to $4,000 more each than traditional buses) but can save districts about $98,000 over the life of the bus.

In addition to a larger up-front cost, there are other downsides. Some districts with propane buses won't use them for out-of-town sports events, as there's no place to refuel on the route. As propane buses become more popular, however, more recharging stations will crop up.

A 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Energy evaluated propane school bus fleets, and listed several benefits, such as:

Cost Savings – School districts in the study saved nearly 50% per mile for fuel and maintenance

Short Payback Period – The up-front investment required for a propane fleet can be recouped in 3 to 8 years.

Improved Efficiency – Propane buses were more efficient than diesel buses.

Improved Fuel Economy – In the study, propane buses achieved fuel economy of 7.2 miles per diesel gallon equivalent.

Reduced Environmental Impact – In the study, greenhouse gas reductions were approximately 770 tons per year.

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