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Iowa school districts switching to propane powered buses

BARNUM (AP) — More school districts in Iowa are using propane to power their buses, which district officials say saves money and reduces emissions.

Six of the nine route buses for the Manson Northwest Webster School District are propane-powered, The Messenger reported . The district has been adding propane-powered buses over the past seven years.

Though propane buses get fewer miles per gallon than diesel, the former is cheaper per gallon. There also is a federal tax credit of 30 cents per gallon to use propane.

Jeff Hansen is the transportation director for Pocahontas Area Community Schools, which has two propane-powered buses. He says reducing bus emissions was another reason for the switch.

“We have buses sitting there idling back to back, and that diesel exhaust fumes were a big deal here a few years ago,” Hansen said. “You don’t have that with the propane.”

The propane buses also warm up faster, which is an advantage in the cold winter weather, Hansen said.

Many bus drivers also like how quiet the propane engines are when compared to diesel, he said.

“When you’re trying to communicate with a bus full of kids, the less noise the better,” Hansen said.

Hansen said one issue with propane is the lower mileage limits how far a bus can be sent.

“We can’t run one of those to Des Moines and back, for instance,” he said. “There’s also a premium on the price of a propane motor. It costs more than a diesel motor, so you have to factor that into your fuel savings when you consider your purchase.”

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