ROUSH CleanTech has been developing cutting-edge propane engine technology for Ford vehicles and Blue Bird school buses since 2010, and now encourages a "data driven" approach for districts looking to secure VW Mitigation Trust Funds for clean energy vehicles in public and private school buses operations.
Of the money that Volkswagen was ordered last year by the U.S. Department of Justice to pay for attempting to cheat federal emissions standards, $2.7 billion will be distributed among states and U.S. territories “to invest in transportation projects that will reduce NOx emissions,” says the National Association of State Energy Officials.
Each state will decide how its allotted money will be spent, so now is the time for student transporters to plan how they are going to request funding for clean gas technology that they either already have or want. Todd A. Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech, told STN that there will be competition for these funds, so these requests must be “more sophisticated and data driven," similar to a recommendation made by air quality grant expert Joe Annotti during an STN Webinar in June.
Also in June, the California Air Resources Board certified the ROUSH 6.8L V10 3V propane engine used Blue Bird Type A and C school buses to the optional requirement of 0.05 grams per brake horsepower per hour (g/bhp.hr) certification for oxides of nitrogen (NOx). ROUSH added that it aims to lower emissions even farther to 0.02 g/bhp.hr by next year.
Mouw points out that operations using or seeking to use buses with ROUSH’s low NOx emissions technology makes them prime candidates for VW grants.
From the standpoint of lowering emissions, propane is a very desirable option, according to its advocates. The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) estimates NOx emissions will be reduced by 11 percent just by replacing a diesel school bus with a new propane school bus. NOx emissions go down by a staggering 92 percent when replacing pre-2007 diesel buses with newer propane buses.
Propane-fueled school buses are also a cheaper option in the long run. In a March webinar hosted by STN, Michael Taylor, PERC's director of autogas business development, said that “diesel vehicles will become more complex, more maintenance intensive, and more expensive” but “propane vehicles will require minor changes and will be less complex and less maintenance intensive which means more competitively priced vehicles.”
Meanwhile, Mouw estimates, “Blue Bird propane autogas buses are saving more than $35 million every year compared with diesel.”
A University of California, Riverside study further confirms the advantage natural gas options have over diesel engines. It found that, while heavy diesel vehicles might start out in compliance with emissions standards, their NOx levels went up as they idled or drove at low speeds or on start-stop routes, things school buses do regularly.
“Knowing this,” Mouw commented to STN, “how can a state allocate funding that is focused on NOx reduction to a technology (diesel) that may not even meet the standard when a solution like propane is available that is 75-percent cleaner than the standard and also drives significant cost savings back to the district.”
One tool ROUSH uses in its education efforts is a Clean School Bus program it has developed to show states the potential NOx reductions they can achieve, depending on the percentage of money they allot for school bus replacement. Mouw shared with STN that ROUSH has had a good response from several states. He reiterated that ROUSH seeks to assist school districts in modernizing their fleets while also assuring them the greatest possible sustainability and economic benefits.
There are currently 12,193 propane autogas school buses in use in the U.S., according to PERC. Blue Bird recently delivered its 10,000th propane school bus in partnership with ROUSH.