Boston chooses propane autogas for city vehicles, buses

August 20, 2015 By    

After a lengthy investigation into powering city vehicles with alternative fuels, Boston committed to convert a portion of its light-duty truck fleet to propane autogas.

Blue Bird designed the Boston Tank bus specifically for Boston

Blue Bird designed the Boston Tank bus specifically for Boston’s School District.

The city converted four Ford pickups to autogas this summer, and expects to have at least 20 vehicles running on autogas by next summer. It has 1,100 total vehicles in its fleet.

Boston’s public school district also plans to adopt autogas into its bus fleet. In May, it announced the purchase of 86 Blue Bird Vision school buses that come equipped with a Roush CleanTech autogas fuel system.

Jim McGonagle, commissioner of the department of public works for Newton, Mass., served as Boston’s director of central fleet management when the city decided to convert some of its fleet to autogas. McGonagle says the city converted two Ford F-250s and two Ford F-150s. Roush CleanTech and Icom North America helped with the conversions, and Eastern Propane, based in Rochester, N.H., committed to supply the city with autogas to fuel those vehicles.

McGonagle says the city began investing in autogas as an alternative fuel a couple of years ago. He says the city tried biodiesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) as alternative fuels for its fleet, but biodiesel had regeneration issues and CNG had limited infrastructure in Boston.

Eastern Propane based in New Hampshire helps Boston by supplying them with propane autogas

Eastern Propane, which is based in New Hampshire, helps the city of Boston by supplying it with propane autogas.

“Once propane autogas had a liquid injection system, it became a practical and reliable option for us,” McGonagle says. “The infrastructure is minimal, and we’re seeing reduction in cost compared to CNG.”

The city adds that it plans to purchase vehicles with an autogas engine option when possible.

Greg Krise, district manager at Eastern Propane, says the retailer partnered with Boston about a year ago. He says the company provides service for the propane-powered vehicles, the systems and the fuel.

Krise says Eastern Propane also helped Boston install an autogas fueling station at the city’s main fueling and maintenance facility.

Boston Public Schools also committed its fleet to propane autogas. While it’s only converting 86 of its 754 buses to propane this year, Peter Crossan, fleet and compliance manager with Boston Public Schools, says the district will gradually convert its fleet to autogas as the buses retire.

“Assuming we see the results we anticipate from propane buses, that is our goal,” Crossan says. “Propane is truly the most viable option for us, currently.”

Boston converts fleet of Ford trucks to propane autogas

Boston officials called for the conversion of a fleet of Ford trucks to propane autogas.

Crossan adds the school district collaborated with Blue Bird to create a one-of-a-kind half-length school bus that runs on autogas. Roush CleanTech also helped with the design. The end product was dubbed the Boston Tank.

“This bus is a first of its kind,” he says. “We have a few large buses, but the buses we replaced this year were half buses, which aren’t normally seen outside of densely populated neighborhoods. They are very handy for us, though.”

Instead of adding an autogas fueling station, Crossan says the school district hired Frank Lamparelli Oil to dispense propane to each bus from a bobtail after school.

While both Boston and its school district had the idea to convert much of their fleets to autogas, Crossan says the two decisions were independent of each other.

“The response from the public on these decisions has been incredible,” Crossan says. “Our drivers are also excited on our end to try these buses in the fall since they’re quieter. I want to add to the propane retailer that this could be a great opportunity. At the end of the day, autogas is an extra way for them to sell gallons.”

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