The Westerville City School District has received a grant to purchase 13 buses that run on alternative fuel.

Westerville is one of 15 grant recipients to receive one-time funding from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to convert diesel-powered, heavy-duty fleet vehicles to run on cleaner burning alternative fuels.

The school district has received a $169,000 grant for 13 buses, said Dina Pierce, Ohio EPA media coordinator.

"A key point is there's still funds available," she said.

Shawn Dawson, Westerville schools fleet manager, said the district would buy eight new propane-powered buses this year and five the following year with the funds.

Those buses will replace diesel buses being retired because they're 15 years old.

"Those aren't cost-effective to keep," Dawson said.

"We go by the age of the bus. They usually have 150,000 to 200,000 miles by then."

Dawson said the district currently has a 119-bus fleet and 27 are propane-powered.

"With deploying eight new ones, we will have 35," he said. "More and more, we're replacing with propane. We're looking at doing this until 50 percent of the fleet (is propane). As of now, it makes a lot of sense."

Dawson said propane costs are more stable than gasoline.

"Propane is American fuel," he said. "That keeps the market more stable."

Dawson said a rebate also is being offered on a year-to-year basis for using alternative fuel.

"There's no rebate for diesel fuel," he said.

Dawson said a propane engine also is more cost-efficient when it comes to oil.

He said a propane engine takes seven quarts of oil, compared to a diesel using 24 quarts.

An oil change costs $100 for a propane bus, compared to $230 for a diesel bus, Dawson said.

Pierce said almost $2 million in grants is still available.

She said grants would be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to qualifying applicants until the funds are allocated.

"More than $3 million has been awarded to date," Pierce said. "Funding comes from $5 million the state legislature set aside for the program (from the Alternative Fuel Transportation Fund of the Ohio Developmental Services Agency). Up to 50 percent of the purchase price, or a maximum of $25,000 per vehicle, can be reimbursed through the grant program."

In addition to helping school districts, businesses, local governments and nonprofit organizations offset costs for new vehicles, replacing heavy-duty diesel vehicles with alternative-fuel vehicles helps improve Ohio's air quality, she said.

Other local grant recipients include Central Ohio Transit Authority, Franklin County, $400,000 for 18 compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered transit buses; city of Columbus, $371,584 for 16 CNG-powered refuse trucks; Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, $6,250, for one propane-powered refuse truck; and Local Waste Services, Franklin County, $322,400 for 16 CNG-powered refuse trucks.

For a complete list of grant recipients, and to learn more, visit https://bit.ly/2nEwLWp and click on the "Alternative Fuel Vehicle Grants" tab.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla