Thanks to key fuel partnerships and a U.S. government grant, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., Fleet Services Division is currently converting 13 Ford E-450 paratransit buses and two F-150 pickup trucks to run on propane autogas fuel.
According to Fleet Manager Merle McCullough, CAFM, this conversion project allows the fleet to more effectively budget its fuel spend, lower operating costs, and improve operations. He expects the conversions to generate a savings of at least $100,000 in annual fuel costs, including a 50-cent tax incentive from the IRS.
McCullough handles the procurement, disposal, maintenance, fueling, and overall management of the Unified Government (UG) fleet, which includes 1,159 vehicles that range from light-duty vehicles to Class 8 trucks.
The propane-autogas conversions include 13 fixed-route city and county buses and two Ford pickups operated by the street divisions for maintenance purposes. The fleet also operates two hybrids.
Seven propane autogas-powered vehicles were put on the road in January 2013, and the current conversions were to be completed by the end of April.
Existing Infrastructure Allows for Quick Conversion
McCullough’s green fleet plan began to come together when a grant became available to the fleet for implementing alternative fuels. He did his research, which led to what he and an outside consultant deemed the best option: propane autogas.
“With the $120,000 grant and the available infrastructure, it made sense to go with propane autogas,” McCullough explained. “Compressed natural gas (CNG) would have cost about $1.2 million.”
The conversion to propane autogas replaces more than 50,000 gallons of gasoline the fleet uses each year. McCullough also added that this initiative allows the UG to reduce its dependency on foreign oil, decrease its carbon footprint, and save transit patrons from possible fare increases due to rising fuel costs.
“The conversion cost nearly $9,000 per vehicle, but the project is being paid through funds remaining from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (ECBG), which was awarded to us in 2010,” McCullough said.
Partnership is Key to Success
Through a strategic partnership with Ferrellgas, the UG fleet locked in an annual fuel cost less than half that of gasoline. The vendor supplies the fuel station and dispenser, as well as propane autogas safety training for the drivers and staff.
Some of the fleet’s drivers had safety concerns about converting to propane autogas, but hands-on training supplied by Ferrellgas helped alleviate these fueling and safety fears.
“Our drivers fuel their own vehicles, and we have received very positive feedback so far,” McCullough said.
So far, the UG has been very happy with the conversion to propane autogas and the initial results, according to McCullough. The fleet team would like to continue converting vehicles to propane autogas whenever possible.
“It would be nice to get 10 percent of our fleet into alt fuel, ideally into our police and sheriffs’ vehicles, which use the most fuel,” McCullough said.