It’s exciting to see Minnesota taking real steps to reduce harmful nitrogen oxides through the $47 million it received from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. In a draft plan released Nov. 20, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said it will invest $23.5 million over the next four years, with $4.7 million on electric school buses.
While this is good news because it’s clear our state is committed to making school transportation healthier, propane school buses are a better choice than electric because they are the most cost-effective way to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. A propane school bus costs three to four times less than an electric school bus. The fuel itself is inexpensive per gallon. Maintenance is low because the fuel operates so cleanly through the engine. And propane providers can install fueling infrastructure for a fleet at low or often no cost with a fuel contract.
Propane buses are as clean, if not cleaner, than electric buses when you factor in the emissions from coal-fired electric power plants. And with a range of up to 400 miles on a single fueling, propane buses provide the distance that Minnesota school systems need to get through daily routes and after school events. (By comparison, electric buses are capable of a maximum of 120 miles on a single charge.) And those chilly Minnesota mornings? Propane buses start right up, without the need for costly special equipment.
There are more than 18,000 propane school buses on American roads, transporting over 1.1 million kids to school each day in almost 1,000 school districts. Across Minnesota, about 40 school districts are reducing emissions and saving money with propane school buses, including Eastern Carver County, Mendota Heights ISD, Minneapolis Public Schools, Proctor Public Schools and the St. Francis Independent School District.
I encourage the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Grand Forks area’s school districts and contractors to take a hard look at propane buses.