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PERC: Propane an energy option in 2023 school bus rebate program

November 20, 2023 By    

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2023 Clean School Bus Rebate Program, with the latest round making $500 million available for school bus fleets across America, is open through Jan. 31, 2024.

School bus photo courtesy of PERC

Photo courtesy of PERC

Infrastructure legislation from 2021 authorized EPA to offer rebates to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission models. The Clean School Bus Program funds electric buses as well as propane and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses.

Meanwhile, the propane industry is touting the affordability, reliability and availability of propane-powered school buses. It says propane autogas buses and propane-powered, off-grid recharging solutions are readily available to jumpstart the clean student transportation movement.

“We want to see the positive impact of this Clean School Bus program as soon as possible to start reducing emissions and providing a clean ride to school for our students,” says Steve Whaley, director of autogas business development with the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). “Whether a school district chooses to apply for propane autogas buses or electric buses with propane-powered recharging infrastructure, the propane industry has the technology available now to put clean options on the road for any school district.”

According to PERC, propane autogas buses reduce harmful nitrogen-oxide (NOx) emissions by 96 percent compared to diesel and has virtually zero particulate matter emissions. Additionally, propane autogas also offers a lower cost per pound to reduce greenhouse gases than comparable EV school buses thanks to its low vehicle, fuel, maintenance and infrastructure costs. Fleets in rural, underserved and tribal communities often choose propane autogas school buses because they are affordable, can provide a range of up to 400 miles and are able to operate if the grid goes down.

Transportation directors interested in EV buses can purchase propane-powered charging infrastructure with the rebates, PERC notes. The nanogrid technology is powered by renewable energy sources like solar, wind and a propane generator to reliably recharge school buses independent of the grid, providing a portable option that can be installed in as little as 24 hours.

“It will take a mix of both EV and propane autogas buses to drive down emissions for all our students,” Whaley says. “The key is investing in the technology that makes the most sense for each route. Either way, propane is ready to lead the charge as an energy option for every school district.”

EPA’s 2022 Clean School Bus Rebate Program awarded about $965 million to support the purchase of about 2,600 buses, 95 percent of which were electric. The rebates were awarded to about 400 school districts in nearly all 50 states and Washington, D.C., along with several federally recognized tribes and U.S. territories.

In April 2023, EPA announced the availability of at least $400 million in grants to fund electric, propane and CNG buses that produce zero or low tailpipe emissions compared to their older diesel counterparts. This application period is closed, and EPA anticipates announcing selections for the grant program this winter.

Fleets must submit applications for the current program electronically.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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