By Derek Dalling and Tucker Perkins
We offer a response to the opinion piece headlined “Electric school buses will benefit student health” printed in the Jan. 6 Record-Eagle.
In Michigan, as well as across our nation, there is a trend of moving away from diesel and toward cleaner fuels in the school bus industry, in part spurred by the availability of Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust funds. While this is good news because it’s clear the Great Lakes State is committed to making school transportation healthier, propane school buses — and not electric — are the most cost-effective choice.
There are more than 18,000 propane school buses on American roads transporting more than 1.1 million kids to school each day in almost 1,000 school districts. In Michigan, that includes 470 propane buses used by 44 school districts and contractors. Compare these numbers to about 200 electric school buses operating nationwide. Additionally, Michigan is one of the nation’s largest consumers of propane, which means it’s easy to access, it’s affordable, and there is plenty of supply. Contrary to some belief, propane is not a greenhouse gas. In fact, it is a smart choice for the environment and for human health.
With a range of up to 400 miles on a single fueling, propane buses provide the distance that school systems need to get through daily routes and after-school events. Electric buses are capable of a maximum of 120 miles on a single charge. Plus, a propane bus costs three to four times less than an electric bus, meaning for the same cost, districts can transport 3 to 4 times more students in cleaner buses. In addition, a propane fueling station costs much less to install than an electric recharging station.
It’s true electric buses don’t produce direct vehicle emissions, but they do produce lifecycle emissions related to fuel production, processing, distribution, disposal and usage. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 27 percent of electricity generation comes from coal. Propane Education & Research Council partners have developed a propane school bus that is 90 percent cleaner than the strictest EPA federal emissions standard.
With propane buses, school districts get all the cost- and emission-reducing benefits for less money. While elec-tric school buses are one opportunity for emission reductions, we encourage the state’s school districts and contractors to take a hard look at propane.