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Northwest suburban school district says its propane buses are the fleet of the future

Northwest suburban school district transitions to propane-powered buses
Northwest suburban school district transitions to propane-powered buses 02:29

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (CBS) -- Its school buses don't look abnormal by appearance, but Township High School District 211 in the northwest suburbs say the buses are the fleet of the future.

CBS 2's Marissa Perlman took a ride on one of the district's propane-powered yellow buses, which have a green goal.

The bus is at its loudest when it starts up – it's otherwise a quiet ride.

"A nice smooth ride, and quiet," said Township High School District 211 transportation coordinator Patrick McShane. "The student love quiet."

A green bird – instead of the usual black bird logo for Blue Bird school buses - marks the propane buses. Township has 160 buses that travel about 9,000 miles every day.

The district includes schools in Hoffman Estates, Palatine, and Schaumburg.

As rising fuel prices cause transportation expenses to skyrocket, the district started looking for ways to cut costs.

"It's a win-win for sure," McShane said.

McShane says Township has flipped more than 40 percent of its fleet from diesel to propane, with a goal of going fully green by 2030.

The district says they save almost $8,000 a year.

"Cost savings, green energy – and the students love it," McShane said.

So why aren't other school district jumping on the propane trend?

"I think like a lot of new technologies, a lot of people want to wait and see," McShane said.

There are 22,000 propane school buses on American roads, but there are few school districts who own and operate their own fleet.

But Township High School District 211 does, and leaders there say the emissions and upfront costs have to make sense financially.

"Certainly, the numbers were a driving factor for us," said Lauren Hummel, chief operating officer of the district. "So we looked at, really, the reduced total cost of ownership the buses – as well as including the reduced fuel prices."

Propane is 50 percent cheaper than diesel overall. Amerigas provides the fueling station on school property - the district leases it from the company annually.

Township keeps the upfront costs in control by changing over about 10 percent of its fleet each year - until each of their yellow buses goes green.

While propane fueling is nothing new, other districts – as Township noted - are slow to jump on the green energy trend.

One of the only other district-owned fully propane fleets in the state is near Ottawa.

Randolph Township School District in northern New Jersey was one of the first in the country to own a 100 percent propane bus fleet. They say they're saving up to $3,700 per bus per year.

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