The intensity of the nation’s energy challenge has government agencies looking for “silver bullets” to counter fluctuating fuel prices. Alternative fuels for fleets are available, but carving out a broader role for these options with increased infrastructure is essential to diversifying today’s U.S. fuel markets. Propane is one fuel option used by a range of public sector fleets to support improved performance and significantly reduce vehicle emissions.

Making Dollars and Sense

Fleets that rely on propane (also known as liquid propane gas or LPG) mainly do so because it makes good economic sense. Propane motor fuel is more cost-effective than other petroleum-based fuel options. Fleets switching gasoline or diesel vehicles to run on LPG with certified propane engine technology save 5-8 cents per mile, including alternative-fuel tax credits.

From an environmental standpoint, propane is a significantly cleaner-burning fuel compared to gasoline and diesel, cutting vehicle emissions by 83-99 percent. There is also a surplus of propane worldwide, and unlike other fuels, 90 percent is produced domestically with most of the remaining supply coming from Canada.

CARTS Prefers Propane

Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) in Austin, Texas, has seen the benefits of switching to an alternative fuel. CARTS operates the second-largest rural transit fleet in the state, covering 7,500 square miles and transporting 350,000 passengers every year. Annually, the transit passenger vehicles travel 1.6 million miles. Propane has allowed CARTS to simultaneously save $150,000 per year on fuel costs and utilize a cleaner fuel.

“We use propane to promote cleaner air for our region and have enjoyed substantial cost savings with the dramatic increase in the price of diesel fuel,” said Dave Marsh, CARTS executive director. “Customers and policymakers appreciate our investments in clean-air technologies, and we plan to continue efforts to this end.” CARTS has been propane-clean for 15 years and offers six refueling locations.

Port Arthur Fuels Transit Fleet

In a similar case, the City of Port Arthur, Texas, has also realized the inherent advantages of propane motor fuel. The City’s transit fleet travels 360,000 miles each year and transports 140,000 passengers annually.

Propane saves Port Arthur thousands on fuel costs. Beyond costs, passengers are happier riding the cleaner, alternative-fuel buses and have noted the decrease in noise level compared to traditional diesel buses.
The city’s propane buses also played a key role during one of the most devastating natural disasters to affect the Texas Gulf Coast.

“During the evacuation for Hurricane Rita, our propane buses played a vital role in ensuring our customers made it safely to their destinations. There was a shortage of gasoline leaving many motorists stranded, but thankfully, we run on an alternative fuel and were able to keep our fleet running,” said Tom Kestranek, transit manager, City of Port Arthur.