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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax school district is planning to apply for a $22,500 rebate/grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Wisconsin Propane Gas Association to put toward a new energy efficient bus.
Colfax is currently running nine liquid propane (LP) buses, along with three or four diesel buses, and some unleaded gasoline buses that are used sometimes as substitute buses, said William C. Yingst Jr., school district administrator, at the Board of Education’s October 21 board meeting.
The program will make $22,500 available toward the purchase of a new, more energy-efficient bus, he said.
The LP buses average five miles to a gallon of liquid propane. The unleaded gasoline buses average five to 5.5 miles to a gallon of gasoline. The diesel buses average 7.6 miles to a gallon of diesel fuel, Yingst said.
The cost per gallon for LP, diesel and gasoline makes a big difference, he said.
The price of LP has been between 84 cents per gallon and $1 per gallon, and the cost of unleaded gasoline with ethanol is around $2.45 per gallon, he said.
Yingst did not give a price for diesel, but according to www.gaspricesaaa.com, the average price of diesel fuel in the United States has been between $2.99 per gallon and $3.29 per gallon over the past year.
LP fuel is efficient, economical, and the buses burn cleaner, Yingst said.
Improvements on diesel buses to help deal with the emissions also has resulted in an increase in the cost of the buses as well as the buses not having as much power, he said.
“The advantages of diesel are going away,” Yingst said.
The Colfax school district started adding LP buses in 2014.
Kyle Knutson, a member of the Colfax Board of Education and the Chief Operating Officer for Synergy Cooperative in the Energy, C-Stores, Hardware and Service Stations division, has been working with the Colfax school district, Yingst said.
The drivers like the LP buses, and there is “little to no downside to them,” Yingst said, adding, “The experience has been positive.”
The cost of oil changes also makes a difference in the operating costs of different types of buses.
An oil change on an LP bus is about $45, and the oil must be changed every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, Yingst said.
A diesel bus requires 4.5 to six gallons of oil for an oil change, and the price has been between $135 to $200 for an oil change on a diesel bus, he said.
The cost of an oil change on a gasoline bus is about $30, but the oil must be changed every 3,500 miles, he said.
Considering the cost of the fuel and the cost of oil changes, “there is a significant difference,” Yingst said.
The goal of the school bus rebate/grant program is to eliminate diesel buses, he said.
The deadline for the rebate/grant application is October 30.
The cost of a new bus is $90,000 to $100,000, and a used bus that passes Department of Transportation inspection and still runs will sell for about $2,500, Yingst said.
The biggest share of the program is $10 million from the EPA, although the Wisconsin Propane Gas Association also is part of the program, Knutson said.
A new bus could be diesel, gasoline or an alternative fuel, but it must replace a 2006 or older diesel bus, he said.
“With alternative fuel we can get the biggest bang for our buck to help out,” Knutson said.
A requirement of the rebate/grant is that the old buses have to be scrapped. A three-inch hole must be drilled in the block, and it must be discarded as scrap, he said.
The selection will be a “random drawing,” and the only requirement is to have a qualifying bus, Knutson said.
Yingst said he planned to apply for the program and that he believed all of the district’s diesel buses would qualify.
The awards will be made in January of 2020, and then the recipients will have 90 days to purchase, Knutson said.
Money has been deposited in the school district’s Fund 46 for five years, and the fund has balance of about $130,000, Yingst said.
Funds from a Fund 46 can only be spent in the school district after five years.
“That would be a good use for the money,” Yingst said.