LP Gas

Decades of autogas market innovation

Agility Fuel Solutions’ plant, located in Salisbury, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Agility Fuel Solutions

Agility Fuel Solutions acquired certain assets from CleanFuel USA in May, and with that acquisition comes two decades of innovation in the propane autogas market.

CleanFuel USA launched in 1993 with a focus on building propane autogas infrastructure. A number of fleet operators began to gain interest in propane autogas vehicles in the 1990s, according to Curtis Donaldson, former president of CleanFuel USA and now general manager of propane business development at Agility Fuel Solutions.

“We received a request to build a dispenser that was user-friendly and dispensed like gasoline,” Donaldson says. “So that was the genesis of our business.”

The company gained support from OEMs, such as General Motors (GM), Ford and others. However, a decade later, interest in autogas waned with the emergence of E85. OEMs began to drop propane-fueled vehicles from their lineup, Donaldson adds. “That’s when we [at CleanFuel USA] got into a conference room and decided that if anyone was going to lead in this market, it had to be us,” he says. “We started an engine division, expanding from just infrastructure to under-the-hood applications.”

From there, the company began to partner with OEMs again, including GM. CleanFuel USA also received support from the Propane Education & Research Council in 2006 when it helped to integrate an 8.1-liter propane engine into a Blue Bird school bus. The company later partnered with IC school buses in 2007 and then with Collins Bus Corp. on its Type A school bus.

After GM went bankrupt, CleanFuel USA ended its partnership with GM and Blue Bird. The company then formed a relationship with Freightliner Custom Chassis and Thomas Built Buses to provide a propane-only offering for this OEM.

Although Agility Fuel Solutions plans to rebrand the CleanFuel USA assets it acquired earlier this year, CleanFuel USA helped to pave the way for the future of propane autogas and will today play a role in building the Agility Fuel Solutions brand.

“You could say CleanFuel USA served as one of the pioneers of propane fuel solutions for fleets,” says Brad Garner, president of the powertrain systems business unit at Agility Fuel Solutions. “[CleanFuel USA] had solid products with a great record of performance.”