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Autogas lineup exists now for propane operations

June 16, 2023 By    

While the propane industry awaits the much-anticipated Cummins B6.7 propane engine to one day replace diesel in an OEM bobtail, propane marketers interested in fueling their fleets with propane still have a variety of vehicles to consider today for their operations.

“For a typical propane marketer – for their service trucks, their crane trucks, their tank-setting trucks, their cylinder trucks – there’s quite a few propane options for them already,” says Tucker Perkins, president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC).

ThompsonGas will add five autogas vehicles to its fleet this year. (Photo courtesy of ThompsonGas/Jessica Johnson)

ThompsonGas will add five autogas vehicles to its fleet this year. (Photo courtesy of ThompsonGas/Jessica Johnson)

PERC has long advocated for the industry to operate fleet vehicles on its own fuel, and its new three-year goals include propane marketer adoption of propane vehicles. The council offers an extensive list by manufacturer at propane.com. Ford comprises most of the manufacturers on the list, followed by General Motors, Isuzu and Lincoln. Alliance AutoGas, Campbell-Parnell, Icom North America and Roush CleanTech provide the dedicated or bi-fuel propane systems on a variety of vehicle types.

“You can get a Ford in almost any flavor,” Perkins says. “If you want an OEM mono fuel, you want an aftermarket bi-fuel, from an F-350 up to an F-750, you can buy it and it really works.”

Alliance AutoGas and Roush CleanTech showcased some of their offerings at the 2023 Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo in Nashville, Tennessee. Alliance showed its newly EPA-certified system for the Ford 7.3-liter heavy-duty engine. The system was displayed on a freestanding engine and on a 2022 Ford F-350 Reading Truck body. Roush highlighted two propane autogas vehicles used by ThompsonGas.

ThompsonGas, based in Frederick, Maryland, operates 10 2021 Ford F-750 bobtails and plans to add five 2022 F-550 trucks for delivery, service and sales this year. The bobtails run about 10,000 miles annually, while the service vehicles will operate between 25,000 and 30,000 miles per year, the company says.

Monte McLeod, director of autogas at ThompsonGas, says the company initially received autogas vehicles through an acquisition and “decided to double down on it by making an autogas-focused division.”

McLeod says the bobtails handle transportation of propane autogas without issue while promoting the fuel they sell.

“ThompsonGas recommends all marketers should be driving vehicles with the fuel they sell, not only for the fuel savings and environmental benefits but also that it shows they are walking the walk and believe in the fuel,” McLeod says. He adds that “our drivers are always asking when they’ll get to drive one.”

The propane-fueled F-750 is “the only real bobtail you can buy today,” says Perkins, noting the Ford fits a 3,000-gallon barrel. Propane marketers can order the vehicle from their Ford dealer with the Roush autogas system installed or have a company like Alliance AutoGas perform an aftermarket conversion. Freightliner has offered the S2G propane-fueled chassis for propane delivery vehicles, but Perkins questions whether the product will maintain its presence in the market.

Meanwhile, PERC has worked closely with Cummins on the development and commercialization of the 6.7-liter propane engine. Project leaders say the engine will provide fleet owners with diesel-like performance and durability, uptime and low total cost of ownership, with expected power ratings between 280 to 360 hp and 600 to 860 lb.-ft. of torque.

The engine project launched with a timetable for commercialization in 2024, but Perkins indicates that path now is dependent on the truck OEMs – he notes companies like Hino, Kenworth and Peterbilt – deciding to accept the new engine as part of their product offerings.

“It’s really in the truck OEMs camp now to get it done,” he says. “Cummins is ready. We’re ready.”

To spur the OEMs forward, Perkins tapped the propane industry – leading marketers and bobtail builders – to share its collective interest in the Cummins engine. Westmor is one company supporting the project, signing a letter of intent to purchase 100 propane-fueled bobtails per year, says Jason Soulon, branch manager and regional sales manager at Westmor. Others have done the same.

“We hope that propane is that one platform that we get,” Soulon says. “We’re trying to demonstrate the demand.”

Cummins says the B6.7 propane engine is available to any of its OEM partners that wish to offer the engine in their on-highway, medium-duty chassis, but those partners have not made any official announcements about their plans.

“We encourage all fleets that have an interest in purchasing the B6.7 propane engine to contact their preferred OEM and make that interest known,” Chris Vanasdalan, a product communications specialist at Cummins, writes in an email to LP Gas.


LP Gas asked propane marketers during its 2023 Top Propane Retailers outreach: How many (and what type of) propane-fueled vehicles does your company have in its fleet?

Marketers shared about a variety of their fleet vehicles operating on propane, including bobtails, service trucks and pickups. One company says about 160 of its vehicles are fueled by propane autogas. A couple of marketers cited Freightliner’s S2G bobtail as being part of their fleet. Here are a few other comments.

“We do not currently have any propane-fueled vehicles but would like to introduce one this coming year.” – Virginia marketer

“Zero. Currently we do not have any propane-fueled vehicles in our fleet. We sold our last propane-powered bobtail last year. However, we are in the process of testing a new one.” – Washington marketer

“Diesel. We did have two propane-fueled bobtails but removed them from our fleet due to significant and multiple engine issues.” – Oregon marketer


AUTOGAS SYSTEMS/PRODUCTS

ALLIANCE AUTOGAS

  • 418 EPA approvals covering 1,867 vehicle platforms

Ford

  • F-150 3.3L and 5.0L
  • F-250/350 6.2L, 7.3L and soon 6.8L
  • F-450-F-750 7.3L
  • Transit T150-T350 3.5L PFDI and 3.5L Ecoboost

GM

  • Sierra/Silverado 1500 5.3L and 6.2L
  • Sierra/Silverado 2500/3500 6.6L

Ram

  • 1500 5.7L
  • Ram 2500-5500 6.4L

Isuzu

  • NPR, NQR, NRR with 6.6L

CAMPBELL-PARNELL

CARB/EPA (Full certification, current and intermediate age)

  • 2014-17 GM 6.0L 8,500 GVW to 14,500 GVW, dual-fuel propane

EPA (Full certification, current and intermediate age)

  • 2018-21 GM 6.0L 8,500 GVW to 14,500 GVW, dual-fuel propane

ICOM NORTH AMERICA

Conversion kits

  • Ford E-350
  • Ford E-450
  • Ford F-150
  • Ford F-250
  • Ford F-350
  • Ford F-450
  • Ford F-550
  • Ford F-600
  • Ford F-650
  • Ford F-750
  • Ford Transit
  • Ford F-53/F-59
  • GM 2500
  • GM 3500
  • GM 4500

ROUSH CLEANTECH

Propane autogas platforms

  • Ford E-450 cutaway and stripped chassis
  • Ford F-650/F-750 chassis cab
  • Ford F-53 and F-59 stripped chassis
  • Blue Bird Vision Type C school buses
  • Micro Bird G5 Type A school buses

Bobtails

  • Ford F-650/F-750

Service trucks

  • Ford E-450 cutaway and stripped chassis
  • Ford F-650/F-750 chassis cab
  • Ford F-53 and F-59 stripped chassis

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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