US EPA Clean School Bus Program: expert compares savings between LPG and EVs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would nearly double the funding awarded for clean school buses this year following increased demand, with school districts from all 50 states applying for the 2022 Clean School Bus Rebates. This is the first round of funding from the EPA Clean School Bus Program, which President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created with a historic $5 billion investment for low- and zero-emission school buses over the next five years.

In May, EPA had announced the availability of $500 million, but given overwhelming demand from school districts across the country, including in low-income communities, Tribal nations, and territories, the agency is nearly doubling the amount of funding to $965 million to replace diesel buses with cleaner alternatives.

However, nearly all of the $965 million will go toward 2,350 electric school buses. As a stark contrast, there will only be 109 low-emission school buses powered by LPG and CNG, explains Todd Mouw, Executive Vice President, ROUSH CleanTech. “With a sum as large as $1 billion, the program could have made a much bigger dent in replacing older, high-emitting diesel buses. If the goal is to get as many dirty diesel buses off the roads as possible, did we actually do that with this round of funding? The answer is clearly no,” he highlights.

With the nearly $1 billion funding program, EPA could have put as many as 29,000 Autogas school buses at bus stops across the country, which would cover almost all of the school buses replaced on an annual basis. LPG buses cost a third as much as the electric ones, and do not require extensive and expensive infrastructure related to charging stations, electrical service upgrades and system overhauls. In addition, they have a range of 400 miles on a single fuelling, which is hundreds of miles more than electric buses, and make much more sense for rural and semi-rural areas where the electrical grid cannot support the infrastructure needed to power and sustain electric vehicles.

The Propane Education & Research Council estimates that replacing 29,000 diesel buses with LPG buses would reduce NOx emissions by 7,846 metric tons per year and CO2 emissions by a whopping 155,472 metric tons per year. Replacing 2,350 diesel buses with electric buses will reduce NOx emissions by just 665 metric tons per year and reduce CO2 emissions by only 36,870 metric tons per year, considering the average emissions output of the U.S. electrical grid. Moreover, those 29,000 LPG school buses would save districts almost $131 million in fuel costs annually and $1.6 billion over their entire lifecycle.

The Clean School Bus Program will provide another $4 billion to replace existing diesel buses with cleaner alternatives over the next four years. “As we progress through the balance of the Clean School Bus Program, perhaps there is a better way to distribute those dollars in an effort to drive in both emissions reductions and significant cost savings,” Mouw concludes.

For more information, please check this link.

Photo: ROUSH CleanTech

23 November 2022