Continued Innovations Provide Propane Autogas With a Bright Future
With concerns about the environment continuing to mount, there have been increasing efforts to find viable options to the two big traditional motor fuels: gasoline and diesel—from alternative fuels, alternative fuel vehicles and alternative fuel sources.
And propane autogas—the term used to describe propane when it is used as a fuel for vehicles—has taken the clear lead in that respect. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, 60% of alternative-fuel vehicles nationwide run on propane, from buses in metropolitan areas to fleet trucks, forklifts, lawnmowers and farm tractors. It is the third most popular vehicle fuel, next to gasoline and diesel.
As the world’s most popular alternative fuel, there are now hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the road today in the U.S. that have been manufactured or converted to use autogas.
As always, cost plays a vital role. According to data compiled by the Propane Education and Research Council, the cost to install infrastructure for 10 propane autogas vehicles with a single 1,000- to 2,000-gallon tank can total up to $60,000, including as much as $36,000 for site preparation and equipment, and up to $24,000 for installation.
Sounds like a hefty investment, But compare that to the estimate cost to set up infrastructure for 10 electric vehicles with five level 3 fast EV chargers, which can range up to $480,000, including as much as $200,000 for site prep and equipment, as well as up to $280,000 for installation.
And unlike propane autogas infrastructure, electric infrastructure will most likely have additional costs for items like electric sub-panels, added amperage to power multiple stations, and upgrading and replacing incoming power lines.
Autogas: driven by innovations
The growing popularity and viability of autogas has also led to an array of innovations in OEM-supported vehicles that use the fuel, including light- and medium-duty trucks, vans and shuttles.
Autogas and school buses
At last count, there are now about 15,000 propane-powered buses in the country transporting nearly one million children to school each day, and that number keeps increasing.
Buses fueled with propane autogas are crash-tested for impact in the side and rear, meeting rigorous motor vehicle safety standards.
Kids are benefiting from a healthier ride to and from school as well because propane school buses get an A+ as far as meeting emissions standards is concerned.
Studies have shown that, when compared with the old diesel buses they have replaced, buses fueled by propane autogas:
- emit 80% fewer smog-producing hydrocarbons
- reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions by about 10,000 pounds
- lower particulate matter by 315 pounds
Converting engines to autogas
For fleet owners who want the cost benefits of propane autogas but need the flexibility of a gasoline backup or who aren’t ready to purchase new vehicles, EPA-certified bi-fuel conversion kits can be installed on existing vehicles.
You can count on propane refueling technology to deliver as dependably as the vehicles themselves. Refueling with propane autogas is quick, quiet and safe. It’s the same experience as refueling with diesel or gasoline, making the transition to propane autogas easy for fleets.
Autogas-powered vehicles are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, and they provide the same horsepower, torque and towing capacity as conventionally fueled versions of the same models, all while holding down operating costs.
Engine conversions, fueling stations and deliveries
If you’re interested in powering your fleet with propane, your local propane company can help.
Ask about converting your vehicles, setting up a propane fueling station at your property or arranging for on-site fueling on a regular schedule. Your propane company may even be able to help you qualify for alternative fuel tax credits to help you save even more!
Any vehicle or retrofit system that is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and/or is CARB certified and is registered and operated and complies with all applicable regulatory standards in the state of New York is eligible for an alternative fuel tax credit, which extends the $.50 per gallon fuel credit for the use of propane autogas as a transportation fuel, and the refueling property credit, which extends the 30 percent/$30,000 investment tax credit for propane autogas vehicles.
New legislation extended both the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit and the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Tax Credit for three years – retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and prospectively for 2020. Please consult your tax professional for assistance.