The district won funding for 25 propane buses in January from the Texas RR Commission through the Commission's CLEAN FLEET program.
The grant was presented to district Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier by Texas RR Commissioner David Porter. He said that Texas has close to 1800 school buses running on propane in 60 school districts.
"These new buses are reducing exhaust soot by 99 percent. That's quite an accomplishment, and I know our children appreciate it. At the Railroad Commission, we have administered 40-million in state grant funds for programs like this since 2005."
The grant will also be used to install a propane refueling station for the new fleet.
The announcement was made in front of a couple of the district's new buses. Dr. Grier says this is the first step in HISD's effort to help clean the environment.
"We want to find ways to be more eco-friendly and at the same time, be better stewards of taxpayer's dollars. This bus operates about 3,ooo dollars a year cheaper than our traditional gasoline bus. We have 900 school buses that we run every day, so think about 900 times 3,000. We're talking about a lot of money if we could just make that conversion."
Mark Swackhamer is the district's fleet manager. He says the summer price for diesel is averaging 3.15 per gallon, compared to 1.72 a gallon for propane.
"That's why we made a large request for grant money for fueling infrastructure, which was almost a quarter of a million dollars just for the fueling infrastructure. But it's an 18-thousand gallon tank, so it supports the growth of propane use. Not only do we have 225 buses, but we have approximately 300 other vehicles that service our electricians and our plumbers, and different people that work on the schools."
From left to right: Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter, HISD Fleet Mgr Mark Swackhamer and HISD Superintendent Dr Terry Grier
He says the propane conversion is taking place without any additional cost to the HISD.
"Sometimes there's a cost factor in there for going green, these have all been cost, not only environmentally friendly and the right thing to do, but they have also been a cost savings to the district."
While propane is cleaner, it's not as fuel efficient as the diesel buses, and there are no plans for the district to make a complete transition.