This week, the West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) is taking steps to introduce propane autogas as an alternative fuel option for the state's fleet of more than 3,000 school buses.
State law currently prohibits the use of propane in school buses, but the board is discussing a revision of that policy and seeking to initiate a formal public-comment period about the issue. According to board documents, ‘the revised policy will be brought before the WVBE within the next couple of months for placement on public comment.’
Ben Shew, executive director of school transportation, prepared a presentation for the board that described the bus fleet's footprint: 46 million miles logged and 6.3 million gallons of diesel consumed annually. A switch to propane could yield fuel-cost savings of up to 40%.
According to Shew's analysis, which used Ford's 6.8-liter V10 platform as a baseline, autogas engine upgrades would bring a premium of about $10,000, and the fueling infrastructure investment will cost from 5 to 10 cents per gallon. If the school district converted 90% of its fleet to run on propane, the payback period is estimated to be 3.2 years. Each year, fuel cost savings would more than $3,100 per bus.