Propane Offers Clean Air Advantages for School Buses, Fleet Vehicles

Chicago Area Clean Cities recently partnered with the Propane Research & Education Council (PERC) to host a webinar to help provide clarity on the questions surrounding propane as a source of energy.

While electric and biodiesel vehicles have taken center stage in recent years for many environmentally conscious industries, propane-powered vehicles have been quietly advancing in the background. In 2018, Palatine Township High School District 211 added 15 propane-fueled school buses to their fleet to improve the air quality in their area, in addition to preventing schoolchildren from coming into close contact with harmful, airborne toxins that are common with diesel-powered vehicles.

“Along with financial savings, propane buses have the added benefit of cutting pollution, operating more quietly and running on a domestically produced fuel source,” said Ryan Zic, director of school bus sales at ROUSH CleanTech.

Propane does not increase reliance on foreign oil because nearly all of the propane used in this country is produced in the United States.

“My favorite part about propane is that we have more of it than any country in the world,” said Steve Whaley, director of autogas business development for PERC. “In 2019, we produced 20 billion gallons of it here in the U.S. and used just 9 billion, then exported the rest.”

Through Argonne National Laboratory’s Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Technologies Model (GREET), you can learn about the “well-to-wheel” emissions of vehicles you own, in addition to simulating the emissions of vehicles that run on alternative fuels, like propane. The software helps make emissions data accessible and personal.

According to GREET’s data, one kilowatt-hour of propane from crude oil produces about 51 grams of carbon dioxide emissions from the well to when it gets burned up during actual use. For context, one kilowatt-hour of ethanol intended for gasoline blending will, by the time of its use, eventually produce closer to 150 grams of carbon dioxide emissions—almost three times as much as propane.

“We virtually have no particulate matter in propane,” Whaley said. “When we used gasoline and diesel inside warehouses, in the past, people got sick.” With propane-powered vehicles, Whaley explained, illness has been uncommon—this speaks to the dramatically lower amount of particulate matter in its exhaust.

PERC offers comprehensive yet digestible methods of learning more about propane. An example is this brief video highlighting various types of vehicles that use propane fuel, including food-and-beverage delivery trucks, paratransit buses and parcel-package vehicles.

Beyond the environmental and public health benefits, propane autogas saves money for every mile driven. According to ROUSH CleanTech, a gasoline-powered vehicle will cost $0.85 per mile, while a propane-powered vehicle will cost just $0.63.

Propane is cost-effective, plentiful and dramatically better for air quality. Until the U.S. has the infrastructure to support a completely clean energy powered lifestyle nationwide, alternative fuels like propane should be considered as a step toward a cleaner future.

To view CACC’s recent webinar on propane, please visit this link.

If you have questions about the advantages of alternative-fuel vehicles, contact us at  

By Jenna Spray
Chicago Area Clean Cities

Click here to watch a video about propane-powered vehicles.
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