We’re on This Clean Fuel Bus Journey Together 

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We can all agree that our children deserve clean air on the ride to school. That’s one of the main reasons we do what we do at ROUSH CleanTech. 

Every leader I know in the clean energy movement wants what’s best for students, but here’s where organizations like World Resources Institute continue to get it wrong: WRI claims that electric school buses are the only option to achieve our shared goal of clean rides to school for children. 

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It’s simply unfair and unsustainable to force school districts to choose only one path to clean air. 

It’s clear WRI has high standards for our children, and so does ROUSH CleanTech. That’s why we’re constantly innovating to build cleaner engines at a price point districts can afford so that taxpayer money can stay where it belongs: in the classroom.

At ROUSH CleanTech, we’re looking at the big picture. Let me go upstream a bit to show all of the factors that impact schools and their students, including budget considerations (which cannot be overstated), current availability and how the energy is being produced. Here are three simple truths:

Today’s propane technology is affordable and sustainable.

In their messaging, WRI does not address two huge factors that school districts must consider: financial viability and sustainability. Not every school district can afford an electric fleet. Both upfront and ongoing costs put EVs out of reach for a majority of districts, even with funding incentives. Technology for commercial EVs has come a long way, but there’s still more ground to cover. Consider the following:

Propane buses cost one-third the price of EVs. Right now, our goal should be to get as many diesel buses off the roads as quickly as possible. With the current price point of EVs, we won’t get very far.

EVs don’t operate well in cold weather. Propane bus operators love that their vehicles perform well in sub-zero cold weather, with no cold-start issues.

EVs do not have the range that everyone needs. Propane buses can travel 400 miles on a single fueling.

Infrastructure requirements for EVs are costly and inflexible. Propane infrastructure offers the most flexibility of any clean alternative fuel, and it can cost as low as $0 with a fuel contract. School districts will pay up to $480,000 for EV infrastructure installation.

Cleaner buses are ready now.

Propane buses are ready today. It’s common knowledge that EVs still have challenges to overcome before being widely available and sustainable in every market.

WRI rightly has a grand vision for our future. At ROUSH CleanTech, our sights have been set high, too. That’s why in my reflection on the most recent round of Clean School Bus awards, I shared my disappointment about how the $1 billion that was spent on 2,350 electric school buses will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by just 665 metric tons per year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by only 36,870 metric tons per year, considering the average output of the U.S. electrical grid. By comparison, that $1 billion could have gone toward replacing 29,000 diesel buses with clean propane buses. Those 29,000 propane buses would have not only saved taxpayers money over the lifecycle of the bus, but would have also reduced NOx emissions by 7,846 metric tons per year and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by a whopping 155,472 metric tons per year.  

Electric is a great option, but not the only option. As any educator or parent can attest: one size rarely ever fits all. Right now EVs don’t make sense for every school district. Propane is readily available today and makes a lot of sense for many fleets. We want everyone to have access to clean alternatives — today and in the future.

Propane emissions are near-zero.

There is no such thing as a “zero-emissions” vehicle. In most of the United States, propane produces fewer emissions than electric vehicles when all factors are considered, such as components needed for batteries and the current source of U.S. electricity. Electric vehicles require energy-heavy processes to develop lithium-ion batteries; will use millions of tons of oil and coal in mining to fabricate materials; and, place a heavy burden on the electrical grid, which is mostly powered by coal, natural gas and nuclear energy.

Today’s propane technology is so advanced that emissions are near-zero. A ROUSH CleanTech propane engine is 90% cleaner than the strictest EPA standard and 66% more effective at reducing nitrogen oxides compared to EVs. And, propane buses don’t have the cost and complications that diesel buses have to achieve the same results.

Although EVs don’t produce direct vehicle emissions, they do produce lifecycle emissions related to fuel production, processing, distribution, disposal and usage. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 63% of electricity generation comes from fossil fuels. At least 100 pounds of materials are mined, moved and processed for every pound of battery fabricated for electric vehicles. The manufacturing, transportation and recharging of batteries for EVs — combined with the losses in transmission and distribution of electricity — still have a significant impact on the environment. 

And, renewable propane is on the horizon and soon will be widely available. Renewable propane has the same chemical structure as traditional propane, but comes from non-fossil fuel sources like plants, cooking oil and feedstock. At the point of combustion, renewable propane is carbon neutral, meaning no new carbon is added to the atmosphere. 

Propane is an ideal option, especially for the thousands of districts that will not receive grant funding from the Clean School Bus program and cannot afford EVs on their own. Propane offers a readily available, economical and uncomplicated solution to eliminate emissions. It doesn’t put the burden back on schools and taxpayers — and ultimately, students. 

We are on this journey together. Let’s work together to achieve it. 


Todd Mouw is executive vice president of sales and marketing of ROUSH CleanTech, an industry leader of advanced clean vehicle technology. Mouw has more than two decades of experience in the automotive and high-tech industries. As former president of the NTEA Green Truck Association, Mouw helped set standards in the green trucking industry. To learn more, visit ROUSHcleantech.com.

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