Late last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration announced nearly $1.7 billion to support state and local efforts to modernize aging transit fleets with low- and no-emission buses.
That caught the attention of Mountain Line Transit Authority, which happens to be in the market to replace two of its smaller 12+2 buses.
Mountain Line CEO Dave Bruffy recently told the transit board that he would like to replace those vehicles with new buses that have been converted over to liquid propane.
“What we learned was that the expense for propane gas is less than for regular gasoline. The range is about the same. They run a lot cleaner; the nitrous oxide level is already below what the standard will be in four or five years. They meet low- and no-emission standards,” he said.
Bruffy went on to say that the cost per gallon equivalent of liquid propane is about $1.43 and comes with an annual federal rebate of 37 cents per gallon for the roughly 5,500 gallons the average Mountain Line vehicle would consume in a year.
The current cost of gasoline in the Morgantown area is $3.52. Diesel is $4.50.
“The nice thing about liquid propane, it’s just like the gas that goes into your grill. It won’t contaminate the air. It won’t contaminate the soil. It won’t contaminate the water. It’ll work down to -40 degrees,” Bruffy said, explaining that should the need arise, the same truck that delivers propane residentially could refill a bus on the side of the road.
Propane buses also don’t require special parts and inventory and extensive training of garage personnel, like electric buses, which are also far more expensive.
Depending on how the two-bus demonstration pans out, Bruffy said he could foresee Mountain Line replacing at least its light- and medium-duty fleet — 15 of 35 vehicles — with LP alternatives.