Propane Autogas – Conversions and Infrastructure

Ferrellgas Cuts Costs Using Propane Autogas

May 2011, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Cheryl Knight - Also by this author

Ferrellgas currently operates nearly 30 F-250 models and looks to add the F-550 as soon as it’s readily available.
Ferrellgas currently operates nearly 30 F-250 models and looks to add the F-550 as soon as it’s readily available.

At Ferrellgas, conserving and protecting natural resources is more than something the company just talks about. It’s the way they do business. With one of the biggest propane-operated fleets in the United States, Ferrellgas has tremendous experience with alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs).

As a national retail propane company, Ferrellgas serves approximately 1 million customers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Being a propane provider for more than 70 years, Ferrellgas has unique insight into the benefits of propane autogas, and leveraging that knowledge allows the company to maximize its propane-operated vehicle fleet.

Robin Lewis, vice president of Procurement, Fleet, and Asset Management at Ferrellgas, develops and executes a variety of comprehensive corporate purchasing and fleet strategies for the company’s nearly 4,000 vehicles. She also provides effective resource planning and ensures assets are accounted for and provide desired returns, all while maximizing utilization.

“We are an eco-conscious company,” Lewis said. “Like many, we’re concerned about the environment and seek to proactively comply with EPA and CARB regulations, not because we’re told to but because we believe it’s better to do what’s right.”

Headquartered in Overland, Kan., Ferrellgas operates a wide range of Class 2-7 AFVs, including Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, and Impco bifuel vehicles. The company is most excited about new opportunities in buying Ford and ROUSH CleanTech dedicated systems.

The company’s sales force drives propane-powered vehicles in an effort to show prospective clients that these types of vehicles have no loss of power. Drivers and service workers also drive alt-fuel vehicles to perform their duties.

Reducing Environmental Impact

Propane autogas powers more than 15 million vehicles in more than 40 countries. This type of fuel provides fleet managers with a cost-effective, clean, safe, and reliable alternative fuel. Plus, more than 90 percent of all propane used in the United States is produced domestically, reducing the country’s dependence on foreign fuel.

“For us, there is an economic advantage to using propane autogas, and not just because we are a propane company,” Lewis said, pointing out that the cost to upfit trucks to utilize propane autogas is quickly offset by fuel reduction savings. “We believe propane offers significant advantages — infrastructure costs are dramatically lower than other options, and we can set up a propane-dispensing station for a fraction of the cost when compared to other alt-fuels.”

Lewis is extremely excited about current advances in propane technologies. “Today’s technology allows us to become better stewards of our environment and also allows us to take advantage of a low-cost and widely available fuel source,” she said.

One vehicle Lewis will continue to add to Ferrellgas’ propane-operated fleet is the ROUSH CleanTech liquid propane-injected (LPI) Ford F-250 pickup truck. The company currently operates nearly 30 F-250 models and looks to add the F-550 as soon as it’s readily available.

“ROUSH is a respected name from a performance perspective,” Lewis said. “And incorporating these vehicles into our fleet has virtually no impact from a time perspective, and the upfit costs associated with conversion are quickly offset by reduced fuel cost.”

Lewis also pointed out these particular ROUSH CleanTech vehicles completely meet EPA and CARB requirements, and that the manufacturer’s warranty provides extra peace of mind.

The most important element to keep in mind when implementing, assessing, and maintaining an alt-vehicle fleet is to look at all options, find the best fit, and ensure the program’s sustainability, according to Lewis. “Fleet managers don’t want to be short-term thinkers, so they need to push these initiatives even when gas prices come back in line. They also want to make sure it’s something the company fully stands behind,” she said.

For those looking for more information on propane and its advantages, Lewis
recommended visiting www.ferrellautogas.com, a comprehensive new website developed by Ferrellgas earlier this year.

Reducing Fuel Consumption

Ferrellgas is currently finalizing a comprehensive fleet approach that seeks to further maximize results on several fronts. In addition to using alt-fuel vehicles, the fleet team is working hard to ensure proper utilization and that the right trucks are on the road.

“The more efficient we become, the fewer miles we drive,” Lewis pointed out. “We are also focusing on ensuring good driving habits and safety because it significantly impacts our fuel economy,” she said.

The company is also using different technologies to decrease its environmental impact, such as the implementation of propane injection systems and APUs, which have also helped offset fuel consumption.

Moving forward, the Ferrellgas fleet is looking to buy additional propane-powered vehicles whenever and wherever possible.

“From our perspective, the future is very bright for propane autogas,” Lewis said.

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