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HOLMEN — The School District of Holmen is saving money and reducing emissions after beginning a transition to propane-powered school buses.

In the past two years, the district has introduced eight Blue Bird propane buses into its fleet, and there are plans to replace the 30 remaining diesel buses as funding becomes available.

Beth Hobbs

Hobbs

“We did an analysis of diesel, propane and gas buses — looked at all of our options,” said Beth Hobbs, transportation supervisor for the district. “Our analysis showed that switching to propane buses would provide great savings in the long run — $56,000 over the life of each vehicle.”

Most of the savings will come from fueling, as propane costs less than half of what diesel does. Propane buses are also easier to repair and maintain on-site, sparing the district from outsourcing those jobs.

Hobbs noted that the new buses are also more environmentally friendly. According to Blue Bird, the propane buses create far less pollution and smog than their diesel counterparts.

The district plans to purchase two propane buses a year for as long as its budget and influx of grant dollars allow. Each one costs nearly $100,000.

Propane school buses are still relatively novel, with only a small fraction of Wisconsin school districts using them.

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Fueling, according to Hobbs, is the only drawback.

The district recently installed a propane tank on its grounds, in part because it’s difficult to find fueling opportunities while on the road.

Before the district can use one of its propane buses for a field trip, school officials must first locate propane tanks along the planned route.

“If we take a trip to Madison or Milwaukee,” she said, “we have to set all that up.”


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Kyle Farris can be reached at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Kyle_A_Farris.

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Kyle Farris covers education for the La Crosse Tribune. Reach him at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com.

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