The city of Manchester is adding 14 propane-fueled school buses to its fleet in an effort to improve local air quality.
The city has 81 school buses in total. The new propane-powered ones will replace the oldest buses, all of which are between 14 and 18 years old. Officials say tests show the propane buses can cut emissions from diesel buses by 96%.
The buses will cover home-to-school runs for all grades of public schools all over the city, “with an initial focus on some of the most densely populated neighborhoods,” says Manchester Transit Authority executive director Mike Whitten.
He says the city paid for the buses with more than $1.5 million from the state’s cut of the Volkswagen emission tampering settlement. That pool of money still has about $9 million available for electric school bus projects.
Jessica Wilcox of the Department of Environmental Services said on a recent webinar on the topic that no one applied to use that money in the first round of grants.
"We've got time now to be looking at how to put something together to move New Hampshire forward in this capacity,” Wilcox says. “Certainly with COVID-19 being a respiratory pandemic here in our nation, now is the best time to be looking at zero-emissions options for New Hampshire."
The webinar, organized by Clean Energy New Hampshire, also included stakeholders who’ve worked on electric school bus pilot projects in Massachusetts.
These groups say the switch eliminates the majority of fuel and maintenance costs from diesel buses, while improving local air quality and helping to fight climate change.
Whitten, the Manchester transit director, says he can “definitely see” the city adopting electric buses for public transit purposes in the long term, “but not for several years.”