Alternative Fuels

Propane autogas fuel offers advantages for variety of fleet sizes


As fuel prices rise and directives are given from the government and company executives to be more environmentally and operationally efficient, fleets have important decisions to make when incorporating new vehicles into their fleets. These new considerations have led fleets of all sizes across the country to include alternatively fueled vehicles, including those fueled by propane autogas.

Propane autogas refers to liquid petroleum gas (LPG) when it is used in an on-road engine. Propane autogas is non-toxic, colorless and virtually odorless. An identifying odor is added so it can be readily detected.

The third most common vehicle fuel in the United States, propane autogas fuels more than 270,000 buses, taxis, shuttles and light and medium duty truck and vans. Propane autogas reduces emissions while providing high performance and cost savings.

It is also a reliable, domestic resource, as nearly 90 percent of U.S. propane autogas supplies are produced in the United States.

In the past two years, more than a dozen new on-road platforms fueled by propane autogas have been developed with funding from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). Currently, more vehicle platforms are in development from Roush CleanTech, CleanFuel USA and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation.

Freightliner Custom Chassis manufactures premium chassis for the motorhome, delivery walk-in van and school bus and shuttle bus markets. Roush CleanTech and CleanFuel USA manufacture light and medium duty truck and van propane autogas systems.

Aftermarket conversion kits are available from manufacturers such as Alliance AutoGas, LandiRenzo, RGR Alternative Fuels, IMPCO, ICOM North America, and others.

Recently, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and Austin, TX, rain gutter installation company Austin Gutter King, adopted propane autogas-fueled vehicles. While their fleets fall into different categories for size and usage, both have realized cost, performance and sustainability advantages from using these vehicles.

FUEL COSTS

Business owner Gary Kulp has made his Austin Gutter King a sustainable home service company by building his company around a core of environmentally friendly initiatives. These include using wind-generated electricity to power its headquarters and reusing rainwater for everything from washing cars to flushing toilets.

It made sense to incorporate alternative fuels into the fleet. Austin Gutter King’s fleet of service vehicles includes three Ford F-150s and one Ford F-350 fueled by propane autogas.

“We consider ourselves to be the greenest home service company in America,” Kulp says. “We converted our vehicles to propane autogas because I wanted to lower fuel costs, but also support a sustainable, clean and domestic fuel source.”

Cost savings were also a factor for INDOT, which started exploring new ways to fuel its fleet of 2,300 light and medium duty trucks and vans in 2008 after gasoline prices rose.

“We were trying to figure out how to pay for fuel for the agency because we hadn’t budgeted enough for gasoline and diesel, and didn’t want to pass that cost along to taxpayers,” says Mark Ratliff, INDOT’s director of agency results and forecasting.

After attending seminars about various alternative fuels, INDOT determined propane autogas would best meet the agency’s needs and began converting nearly 600 of its vehicles to a bi-fuel system using gasoline and propane autogas. INDOT is currently in the process of converting the vehicles, which are used to transport highway maintenance crews, signal technicians and survey crews to job sites and projects.

“We had a greater opportunity with propane autogas because of the lower costs than other fuel technologies,” said Joe Rudolph, INDOT’s director of technical services.

Cost Savings

Due to the large volume of propane autogas consumed by INDOT’s sizeable fleet, the agency has been able to negotiate a fuel cost that saves significant taxpayer dollars each month. Based on INDOT initial figures, savings could exceed $1 million on an annual basis.

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