PENDERGRASS, GA - Jackson County Sheriff's Office expects to save about $250,000 in fuel costs this fiscal year alone by using propane to fuel its fleet, according to Online Athens.

In late 2008, the sheriff's office started retrofitting its standard factory-issue patrol cruisers with systems that allowed them to run on propane. Now, the department is on the cusp of converting the last of its fleet of 50 patrol cars to propane-gasoline hybrids, reported Online Athens.

The converted cars will save about $250,000 in fuel costs this fiscal year alone, said Sheriff Stan Evans. In 2009, with only about one-third of the cars converted, the sheriff's office shaved $100,000 off its fuel bill.

Even with the costs of both fuels fluctuating from day to day, propane typically costs about 75 cents less per gallon than gasoline, Evans said. Propane also burns much more cleanly than gasoline, he added.

The equipment and labor needed for each conversion costs about $6,000 per car, according to Amy McChesney, a spokeswoman for Force 911 - the Pendergrass company that coverts the cars. Jackson County paid for the conversions with confiscated drug money, Evans said.

To convert a standard Ford Crown Victoria to run on propane as well as gasoline, contractors install a 24-gallon bullet-resistant tank in the trunk of the patrol car. They connect the tank to a component that uses heat from the car's engine to vaporize the liquid propane and inject the gaseous fuel into the engine cylinders.

Each patrol car's gasoline engine remains intact after the conversion and the cars switch seamlessly between fuel supplies when one tank starts to run low. The propane is a higher octane fuel then gasoline and in most cases improves a patrol car's performance, Evans said.

Evans hopes to replace the department's two 1,000-gallon propane supply tanks with an 18,000-gallon tank so the county government can start buying fuel in bulk and fuel other county vehicles, reported Online Athens.