Fuel for Thought

The Worst Advice About Alternative Fuels

December 16, 2014

by Joe Thompson - Also by this author

Folks are often quick to offer their opinion about the use of alternative fuels in fleet vehicles. Here’s a breakdown of the top five worst pieces of advice I’ve heard when it comes to considering alternative fuels.

  1. Compare miles per gallon. MPG is an ineffective measurement because alternative fuels don’t burn at the same rate as gasoline or diesel. Instead, focus on cost per mile and track the savings against your current gasoline or diesel solution. This will provide an “apples to apples” comparison between all the fuels — that’ll give you a true reading of your total cost of ownership of the vehicle. Remember, it’s all about total cost of ownership, not simply miles per gallon.

  2. You must install expensive private refueling stations. With fueling stations in every state and thousands across the country, alternatives like propane autogas provide a strong network of public refueling infrastructure for fleets without private stations. Also, if private refueling is desired, installing a propane autogas station costs less than any other fueling station, including gasoline or diesel.

  3. Alternative fuels don’t perform well in cold weather. During last winter’s polar vortex, Blue Bird Corporation had alternative fuel buses that provided easy starting, heat within minutes, quiet operation, and no performance issues in weather as cold as -27 degrees Fahrenheit. You can see for yourself how well the buses at Student Transportation of America in Omaha started last winter in a news program on ABC-affiliate TV channel 7 here. During that same time period, the diesel buses had to be started and warmed for 30 minutes to one hour before operation, because of fuel-related issues.

  4. Alternative fuels void vehicle warranties. This may or may not be true, so be sure you’re clear before you choose. Ask your authorized dealer or installer how a new fuel system affects warranty. If you’re buying direct from a manufacturer, the warranty may stay in place. For example, ROUSH CleanTech vehicles maintain Ford’s factory warranty. But, note that a company can “represent” their warranty; be sure to verify that the warranty stays in place with the manufacturer.

  5. There is one alternative fuel that is perfect for everyone. Every fleet has its own specific fueling needs. One size does not fit all. When it comes to alternative fuels, put in the time and research to find the ideal fuel solution for your fleet. Ask yourself, “What do I need my fuel to do for me?”

So here’s your fuel for thought: There’s a lot of information out there, and nothing beats experience. Listen to opinions, but heed advice with caution. And the best advice? Pick the right fuel and the right technology partners to ensure you make a smart fuel decision based on your fleet’s operation.


  1. 1. Brendan Prebo [ December 30, 2014 @ 09:12AM ]

    Hi Joe,
    You make several great points regarding alternative fuel advice to ignore. I'd like to add two more groups of people that are disruptive and over represented in the discussion. The first group are, “Dreamers.” For dreamers the best alternative is always the one furthest away in terms of commercialization. The people now clamoring for fuel cells are a good example. This isn’t to say that fuel cells are bad or not viable – it’s just the technology that’s furthest out right now. The second group is the “Naysayers.” The Naysayers focus on the negative results of extreme changes in human behavior. For example, the naysayers will look at the negative environmental impact of having 50% of car sales be pure EV. If you think that kind of thinking sounds extreme, check out this article. As AFV professionals, we know that the industry is really about creating more choices for fleets and consumers, and not about creating a one-size fits all solution to every transportation need.

  2. 2. Joe Thompson [ January 06, 2015 @ 10:40AM ]

    Hi Brendan. Thanks for your comment. I completely agree that creating choice is beneficial to all; let the market decide what fuel to run in their vehicles. Hopefully the "dreamers" will help us move forward with innovative ideas, albeit slowly, and the "naysayers" will help the industry create better product in the long run.

    Let's start by supporting existing technology that benefits our nation's energy security, is domestically produced, provides a demonstrated return on investment and burns cleaner than conventional fuels. Then we can support the innovation that will lead to fueling with sources that we have in abundance.


Comment On This Story

Email: (Email will not be displayed.)  
Comment: (Maximum 10000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.



Fleet Management And Leasing

Jack Firriolo from Merchants will answer your questions and challenges

View All

Author Bio

sponsored by

Joe Thompson

President, ROUSH CleanTech

Joe Thompson has served as president of ROUSH CleanTech since the company’s inception in 2010. Under Thompson’s leadership, the company has won numerous quality control and environmental awards.

» More

Grants & Subsidies

Alternative Fueling Station Locator

Alternative Fueling Station Locator

Find your closest station or plan a route. Locate biodiesel, electric, ethanol, hydrogen, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquified natural gas (LNG), and propane across America.

Start Your Search