Most of us are already well acquainted with the traditional diesel school bus — it’s a time-honored classic workhorse that has performed well for many years. However, you might not already be aware of the different alternative fuel options available to you. Gasoline, electric, and propane school buses are all on the market today, and many of these are growing in popularity over time. 

But how do you decide on the right fuel type for your fleet?

Here, we have compiled all the different benefits of diesel, gasoline, electric, and propane school buses so that you can properly compare your different options. Some are more obvious than others — there is no shortage of diesel school buses for sale, for example, but finding the right electric bus can be more involved. 

We’ll start with one of the alternative fuel options that you might not have previously considered. 

Propane School Buses

A great clean and cost-effective alternative fuel, propane has been growing in popularity in recent years. 

Benefits of Choosing a Propane School Bus

  • Reduced Emissions: Propane buses emit fewer greenhouse gases, hydrocarbons, and particulate matter than diesel buses. This can help improve local air quality, especially in urban areas where a large number of school buses drive the streets each day.
  • Fewer Harmful Pollutants: Propane school buses emit less nitrogen oxide (NOx), a harmful pollutant that can aggravate asthma and harm the environment.
  • Non-Toxic: Propane is not harmful to soil or water if it’s accidentally released, as it’s a non-toxic fuel.
  • Fuel Cost Savings: Often, propane costs less on a per-gallon basis compared to diesel, leading to significant fuel savings over the life of the bus.
  • Lower Maintenance Costs: Propane burns cleaner than diesel. This can result in extended engine life, reduced maintenance requirements, and fewer oil changes.
  • Incentives and Grants: Many regions offer incentives or grants for adopting alternative fuel vehicles, including propane school buses. This can reduce the acquisition cost or offer other economic benefits to school districts.
  • Cold Weather Performance: Propane engines warm up faster than diesel engines, making them more efficient in colder climates.
  • Quiet Operation: Propane buses generally operate more quietly than diesel buses, which can reduce noise pollution and create a more pleasant environment for students and drivers.
  • Reduced Refueling Time: Propane refueling infrastructure can be simpler and faster compared to diesel or other alternative fuels, which can streamline operations for school districts.
  • Lower Flammability: Propane has a higher ignition point than gasoline, making it less likely to ignite in the case of a leak.
  • Built-in Safety Features: Modern propane tanks and systems come with numerous safety features, including shut-off valves and protective structures.
  • Domestic Production: A significant portion of propane used in the U.S., for instance, is produced domestically. This can reduce dependence on foreign oil and can be seen as a move towards energy security.
  • Consistent Power: Propane engines provide consistent, reliable power, making them suitable for various terrains and conditions.

Best Fit For… 

A school district that wants to move toward alternative fuels without the substantial cost and infrastructure needs of an electric bus or fleet.

Gas School Buses

While the vast majority of us are familiar with gasoline-fueled cars, the population of gas school buses continues to grow. They might be a good fit for your needs, and they offer quite a few benefits for the districts that choose it.

Benefits of Choosing a Gas School Bus

  • Lower Emissions: While not as clean as electric or alternative fuel options, gasoline-powered buses emit fewer pollutants compared to traditional diesel buses. This includes reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter, and other harmful pollutants that can affect air quality and public health.
  • Quieter Operation: Gasoline engines tend to be quieter than their diesel counterparts, creating a more peaceful and comfortable environment for both drivers and students.
  • Easier Refueling: Gasoline refueling infrastructure is well established and widely available. This can simplify logistics for school districts, as gasoline stations are common and easily accessible.
  • Performance: Gasoline engines provide smooth acceleration and power, making them well-suited for various driving conditions and terrains.
  • Vehicle Availability: Gasoline engines are widely used in various types of vehicles, so there’s a wider selection of vehicle models and types available in the market, potentially offering more flexibility in choosing the right bus for a school district’s needs.
  • Lower Maintenance Complexity: Gasoline engines are generally simpler in design compared to diesel engines, leading to potentially lower maintenance costs and easier repairs.
  • Cold Weather Performance: Gasoline engines can warm up more quickly in cold weather conditions compared to diesel engines. This can be a huge benefit for cold climates and regions with harsh winters.
  • Compatibility with Existing Infrastructure: Gasoline-powered buses do not require specialized refueling infrastructure like electric or propane buses, which can help school districts avoid additional upfront costs and barriers to entry.
  • Flexibility in Use: Gasoline-powered buses can be a versatile choice for districts with a mix of urban and suburban routes, as well as those that may not be ready for a complete transition to alternative fuels.
  • Transition from Diesel: Transitioning from diesel to gasoline might be more straightforward for school districts that already have diesel maintenance and repair expertise, as gasoline engines share some similarities with diesel engines.

Best Fit For… 

A school district looking to move away from diesel school buses without the desire or means to account for the infrastructure of an alternative fuel like electricity or propane.

Electric School Buses

The future of clean fuel is definitely headed toward electricity. We’ve written extensively about electric school buses in the past, so if you’re interested in going into more detail about the state of the market or the specifics of those kinds of buses, you can read about them in our previous posts

Here, the point is to see how electric buses stack up to all of their different counterparts. Electric vehicles are the future of transportation, and school buses are no different.  

Benefits of Choosing an Electric School Bus

  • Environmental sustainability: This is probably the first thought that comes to mind when you consider the potential benefits of choosing an electric school bus, and for good reason. Electricity can be a renewable energy source and is definitely the long-term best fuel choice for the environment. However, there are a whole lot more where that came from.
  • Long-term reduced fuel costs: The buses go the distance (up to 120 miles on a full charge) and perform just as well as other types of buses in rough conditions. 
  • Passenger safety: It’s a top priority for any school bus, and you can be confident that all of your Blue Bird options, no matter what type of fuel they use, are going to deliver the highest quality features on that front. Electric Blue Birds are no different. 
  • Quieter, smoother ride: Electric buses improve passenger experience. They’ll notice the more comfortable experience with less noise and fewer bumps. 

These are all strong reasons why electric school buses are gaining in popularity. However, there are also significant hurdles to adding electric buses to your fleet. The main objection most districts have to switching to electric is the upfront cost of the bus as well as the required charging stations. There are an ever-increasing number of funding opportunities for these projects, though, and interested districts should research their options.

Best Fit For…

A school district with a long-term commitment to sustainability and the means to cover the higher initial costs, including accounting for the required infrastructure.

Diesel School Buses

The most well-known type of fuel for a school bus, diesel has truly proven itself over the course of time. Finding a diesel school bus for sale within the specifications of your district is not going to be difficult. 

Benefits of Choosing a Diesel School Bus

  • Durability and Longevity: Diesel engines are known for their robustness. They are designed to handle heavy loads and high torque demands, which can be advantageous for school buses that often operate in stop-and-go traffic and carry a full load of students. The longevity of diesel engines can provide a good return on investment over the years.
  • High Torque at Low RPM: Diesel engines generate high torque at low revolutions per minute (RPM), making them well-suited for tasks that require low-end power, such as pulling away from stops and navigating hilly terrain. This characteristic can contribute to better performance in challenging driving conditions.
  • Availability of Biodiesel: Diesel engines can often run on biodiesel blends, which are renewable fuels made from sources like vegetable oils or animal fats. Using biodiesel can further reduce emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Resale Value: Historically, diesel vehicles have retained their value well in the secondhand market. This can be advantageous for school districts that may want to sell or trade in their buses after a certain period.
  • Easy Access to Diesel Fuel: Diesel fuel is widely available in most regions, and refueling infrastructure is well-established. This can simplify operations for school districts, especially in areas where alternative fuel options might be limited.
  • Heating Benefits: In colder climates, diesel engines can provide efficient engine block heaters that warm the engine and the cabin quickly. This is particularly useful for ensuring a comfortable environment for students during winter months.
  • Familiarity and Maintenance: Diesel technology has been widely used in the transportation industry for decades, leading to a well-established knowledge base and maintenance infrastructure. Many mechanics are well-versed in diesel engine repairs and maintenance.
  • Potential for Efficiency Improvements: Ongoing advancements in diesel engine technology continue to improve efficiency, reduce emissions, and enhance overall performance. 

Best Fit For…

Traditional districts that value their tried-and-true fuel choice.

Considerations for Alternative Fuels

As you now know, there are a myriad of benefits to choosing an alternative fuel. However, to gain the full advantage from these positive aspects, your district needs to be fully prepared for the switch. This section is dedicated to providing you with the necessary steps to work toward that goal.

Infrastructure is the number one concern most school districts have about switching to an alternative fuel source like propane or electricity. Gasoline and diesel are so readily available, it can be hard to justify installing your own charging stations for an electric bus, for example. A propane school bus will also have its own fueling and infrastructure challenges when compared to more conventional fuels.

Stakeholders need to take a long-term view of their options and resources in order to achieve a full understanding of the best type of bus for the district. If initial funding is the main objection, securing grants and other types of public resources are some ways to make those buses more attainable.

Find the right school bus fuel type for your fleet.

Whether you’re interested in a propane school bus, a diesel school bus for sale, or any of the other fuel types we discussed here, you’re sure to find a great fit for your district here at Central States. 

Keep in mind that all the different models of Blue Bird school buses, including the All American and the Vision, are offered in multiple fuel types. If you would prefer one particular fuel type and want to narrow your search to only models offered in that option, that will only slightly limit your choice of a Blue Bird bus, if at all. Consider all needs of your district when you are weighing your options. 

It’s possible that a mix of fuels is going to bring you the best results for your district. Stakeholders should all understand that changes to fuel type don’t have to happen all at once — it might not be feasible for your district to purchase an entire fleet of electric buses, for example, and it might be more attainable to add one propane school bus to start your journey toward cleaner buses. 

Take all of these considerations into account, and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our expert team here at Central States Bus. We would be glad to help you find the perfect addition to your fleet from our extensive inventory.