DALLAS - Vehicles fueled by the nation’s third most common vehicle fuel, propane autogas, provide an economic, environmental, and high-performance solution for fleet managers in attendance at this week’s Green Fleet Conference.

During today’s Green Fleet Conference session, “What Fleets Need to Know Beforehand About Propane Implementation,” panelists Tom Armstrong, ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas; Michael Baessler, American Residential Services, L.L.C.; Wayne Corum, City of Fort Worth, Texas; and Todd Mouw, Roush CleanTech, provided attendees the opportunity to learn from their experiences.

Highlights of the session included: propane autogas environmental benefits; reduced maintenance and potential for longer engine life of propane autogas fleet vehicles; and significant fuel cost savings for companies.

“I believe that it’s important for fleet managers to have all of the facts about propane autogas to weigh their alternative fueling options before taking the step of converting their fleets,” said Mouw. “Our propane autogas vehicles offer a zero compromise alternative fuel solution to these needs, as the panel could attest.”

Variety of high-performing vehicles
Propane autogas fuels more than 270,000 vehicles in the United States, including buses, taxis, shuttles, and light- and medium-duty trucks and vans. More than a dozen new vehicle platforms have been developed over the past two years with PERC funding, and more are currently in development. These vehicles have equivalent horsepower, torque, and towing capacity compared with gasoline-fueled versions of the same models, and they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25 percent.

“Our drivers’ overall perceptions of propane autogas are good,” explained Wayne Corum, director of equipment services, city of Fort Worth. Corum noted that once employees experienced the power, refueling, and performance of vehicles fueled by propane autogas, they were very accepting of the new technology.”

Michael Baessler, fleet director of American Residential Services, agreed: “Propane autogas had all the factors that were important to us — cost, available funding, range of vehicles, storage space, and payload and weight capacity. I went to observe Knapaheide upfitting the Roush CleanTech liquid propane autogas injection system so I could better understand the entire process and answer questions that other people in my company had.”

The company has more than 20 Ford E-350 and E-450 vans fueled by propane autogas in its fleet. Feedback from the technicians who drive the vans has been very positive.

“The drivers say the vans have more power, are quieter, and don’t have a smell to them,” Baessler says.

Environmentally friendly cost savings

The fleet for the City of Fort Worth was the first of these three fleets to embark on an alternative fuel program. In order to comply with the Clean Air Campaign, the city compared propane autogas with compressed natural gas to identify which fuel to use to meet fleet requirements. It chose propane autogas, due to its high mileage range and low infrastructure costs compared with compressed natural gas.

Vehicles fueled by propane autogas offer a sustainable solution for fleets looking to comply with new emissions regulations. They emit 12 percent less carbon dioxide, 20 percent less nitrogen oxide, and up to 60 percent less carbon monoxide than gasoline-fueled vehicles. As an added advantage, propane autogas burns cleaner in engines than gasoline and diesel, resulting in reduced maintenance costs and longer engine life.

Armstrong, director of fleet for ThyssenKrupp, developed a methodology assessment called the Five C’s for incorporating alternatively fueled vehicles into its fleet. To comply with the method, a fuel must be clean, cost-effective, make common sense, conserve, and the company needs to be able to commit to using it.

“As a company, ThyssenKrupp was determined to reduce fuel consumption and find sustainable alternative-fueled vehicles that work for us,” says Armstrong. He found that the only fuel that qualified for the Five C’s method was propane autogas.

ThyssenKrupp operates many vehicles with Roush CleanTech liquid propane autogas injection systems in its fleet, which currently includes Ford E-150 vans and F-150 pickup trucks. Additional Ford E-150 vans and one of the newest offerings with the fuel system, the Ford F-450 chassis truck, also will be added to the fleet. By the end of 2011, one-third of ThyssenKrupp’s Phoenix fleet will be fueled by propane autogas. Its Los Angeles fleet also has propane-autogas-fueled vehicles.

Variety of refueling options

The propane industry has worked with fleets to establish a refueling infrastructure that works best for fleets’ needs. On-site dispensing is available for centralized fleets, like the City of Fort Worth. Thousands of off-site refueling stations across the United States make propane autogas readily available, which ThyssenKrupp utilizes in the Phoenix area.

Fleet managers interested in vehicles fueled by propane autogas can visit the Propane Autogas Pavilion at Green Fleet Conference, www.autogasusa.org, or contact manufacturer or vehicle dealers for more information.

The Propane Education & Research Council was authorized by the U.S. Congress with the passage of Public Law 104-284, the Propane Education and Research Act (PERA), signed into law on October 11, 1996. The mission of the Propane Education & Research Council is to promote the safe, efficient use of odorized propane gas as a preferred energy source through research and development, training, and safety initiatives.