Propane Autogas – Conversions and Infrastructure

Propane Offers Fleets Powerful Performance

September 2009, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Grace Lauron - Also by this author

Click here for PDF of full article.

Jack Roush, chairman of Roush Enterprises, began his career in the automotive industry in 1964. At the age of 22, Roush worked for Ford Motor Company as a quality control inspection engineer and a process engineer. In an interview with Green Fleet, Roush described the benefits of propane use for fleets, which can  achieve significant savings in operations with this alternative-fuel option.  

GF: How did you get involved with propane?
ROUSH: People wanted a work truck that could lower both operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions. We’ve got an EPA-rated emissions laboratory for determining mileage for vehicles on the highway and working with vehicle manufacturers to verify new vehicles comply with various state and federal emission standards.

Roughly three years ago, we were approached by the Propane Education  & Research Council (PERC) and partnered with PERC on the development of our F-150, 250, 350 and E-150, 250, 350 packages, available now or in the fall.

The F-150 propane model was introduced in April 2007. It takes us typically about two and a half years to do a package, so the F-150 package was about two and a half years. We looked at propane and looked at an engine we thought would be ideal and would have a lot of fleet usage.

I drove an F-150 propane model for a year myself, and we did market testing in different parts around the country to see if they’d have good results in various climates. The F-150 propane model came back with tremendous positive acceptance.

GF: What economic advantages Does a propane truck Offer?
ROUSH: Propane offers fleet operators economic advantages over conventional gas fleets, operating at 5-30 percent less than those of gasoline fleets. Battelle Memorial Institute found that propane is the most economical alternative fuel for fleets (on a per-mile basis) when operating, ownership, and infrastructure are taken into consideration.

Tax credits for conversion costs are based on GVWR. The greater the vehicle weight, the bigger the credit (the F-150 credit is $2,500;  and F-250/350 credit is $5,000). A 50-cent per gallon federal tax credit exists for fleet operators who have their own fueling infrastructure installed.

There are 2,500 locations around the country that can supply a public fueling station for propane, 6,000 U-Haul rental agencies with public fueling stations, and a number of oil companies that have gas stations on highways that already have propane stations or are in the process of installing them. So infrastructure exists, and fuel is available at a reasonably low cost.

Many state, county, and city agencies also have special propane incentives for fleets that qualify.

When you convert to propane, the government pays 50 percent of the conversion costs up to $5,000. The price of packages vary between $8,000-$9,000, so the price would be about $4,000-$4,500 if the government pays for half of it at the time.

The beauty of our system is it’s easy to operate, easy to service, and is supported by the same warranty that we have for gasoline engines. There’s no degradation of warranty; the infrastructure to a great extent already exists; and it is relatively inexpensive to expand.

If you were a fleet operator and you wanted to use propane in your fleet, most suppliers would either put a fueling station in for you at no cost, or do it at a much reduced cost that would make it very attractive.

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