Most of the $2.1 million grant comes from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, through the commission's Clean Fleet program. The grant is funded by fees collected on vehicle title registrations. The HISD is one of four agencies receiving a grant this year. The money will cover 70 percent of the cost of the new propane buses. It will also pay for a propane filling station. Paul Youngjohn manages special transportation projects for the HISD.
"Propane-fueled vehicles produce 30 to 90 percent less carbon monoxide, and about 50 percent fewer toxins and other smog-producing emissions than gasoline engines. In terms of cost, we will find out very quickly which is cheaper, or whether they're about the same."
Congress recently extended an alternative fuel tax credit that shaves 50 cents off a gallon of propane. But propane vehicles need more fuel to travel the same distance as their gasoline or diesel counterparts. Youngjohn says the HISD views this grant as sort of a trial program to test the long-term viability of switching to propane.
"We will look at all of our expenses, both from the infrastructure input, as well as the cost of the fuel, any additional or reduced maintenance that may be part of the propane buses."
The HISD board will vote on whether to accept the grant for the propane buses at its next meeting on the 13th. Youngjohn says if the grant is approved this month, the propane buses could be a part of the district's fleet by the middle of the year.