Virginia county autogas fleet benefits from fuel cost savings, reduced emissions

Spotsylvania County in Virginia has converted 20 sheriff's cruisers and four school district trucks to run on autogas under the Southeast Propane Autogas Development Program. The county is experiencing significant fuel cost savings with the new clean vehicles, saving $1.88 per gallon on autogas compared to gasoline in the second quarter of 2012. With the 24 autogas vehicles, Spotsylvania County will save approximately $70,000 in fuel costs each year, while also displacing more than 60 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Conversions and fueling are provided by Program partner Alliance AutoGas, utilizing a bi-fuel Prins VSI system. The converted vehicles include 20 Ford Crown Victorias, two Chevrolet 2500s, one Ford E-250 and one GMC 2500. Outside of SPADP, the county also has five Blue Bird school buses that run exclusively on propane autogas.

Craig Greenlaw, Director of Fleet Services for Spotsylvania County, said reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fuel costs has been a priority for the county's 1,200-vehicle fleet. "We chose propane autogas for our fleet vehicles because of the win-win aspect: fuel savings and reduced emissions," said Greenlaw. "Autogas burns cleaner than gasoline, and we're saving money with every mile the autogas vehicles travel, compared to our gasoline vehicles."

Greenlaw says Spotsylvania County would see an ROI of 2 to 2.5 years for the parts and labor of additional autogas conversions in the future, based on gasoline and autogas price trends and the average annual mileage of county vehicles (anywhere from 20,000-30,000 miles per vehicle per year). If county funding is available, Greenlaw says he has every intention of pursuing additional vehicle conversions.

"Keep in mind our deputies spend an enormous amount of time in their vehicles – these are their offices – so we obviously need them to be comfortable with the technology," said Greenlaw. "As it turns out, our drivers have been completely on board. The officers feel really good about the emissions reductions and the cost-savings they're seeing from their own vehicles; but practically speaking, they like the autogas vehicles because they just perform better and run quieter. Not one of the officers with an autogas vehicle wants to fill up with gasoline."

Alliance AutoGas founding partner Blossman Gas installed one fueling station in Spotsylvania County and also provides a year-round fuel supply. This fueling site is 500 gallons and is located centrally to accommodate their 24 autogas cruisers and trucks. The county school system also has a 10,000-gallon autogas tank at the vehicle service center dedicated to five propane autogas school buses.

Greenlaw said that overall, the county has been pleased with the project, its partnerships, and with the new autogas vehicles. "I would tell any fleet interested in transitioning its fleet from gasoline, if you want a proven technology that reduces emissions and fuel costs, then propane autogas will be a great fuel for you."