Mouw: Marketer involvement critical to autogas’ success

October 8, 2012 By    

Many marketers, manufacturers and allied trade representatives agree propane autogas is the No. 1 opportunity to grow gallons in the coming years. Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing at alternative fuel systems provider Roush CleanTech, is one such person who holds that belief. But Mouw also believes autogas can only entrench itself in the United States if the propane industry rallies together to make that happen. And right now, that’s not happening.

LP Gas Managing Editor Kevin Yanik caught up with Mouw to discuss autogas-related topics.

How important is it to get the propane marketers on board with autogas and have their full support?

Mouw: Propane marketers are already selling forklift fuel and heating fuel and fuel for other applications. All those customers probably already have fleets. What marketers can do is ask, “Can I talk to your fleet guys? Or your CFO? You already see the benefits of using propane for your other applications. How about propane for your fleets, because that’s a huge cost to your business?”

Look at the momentum [Roush has] in just going out to the DHLs of the world and Frito-Lay. If 3,000-plus marketers are all talking about their existing customers running their fleet vehicles on propane, this whole thing would move a lot faster.

We’ve seen several highly visible companies buy into autogas, including DHL most recently. Many of the major companies are dabbling in autogas right now. Do you believe they’ll go all-in on it in the coming years?

Mouw: A lot of the major fleets are trying all of the alternative fuels. I don’t know if they believe there’s a clear winner yet. To be honest, I like that they’re keeping an open mind, because if you run CNG, electric, propane and any other alternative fuels, and you look at the data, more than likely they’re going to see that propane is the best choice for them.

Will they put all their eggs in one basket? Maybe. But what I think you’ll see over time is that the DHLs will order 100, and then they’ll order 500, and then another 500. As the economy improves, I think you’re going to see more conversions more frequently because there will be more data, either from a company’s internal fleet or other fleets.

What’s your vision for autogas in the U.S. 10 years from now?

Mouw: It’s hard to really look beyond five years. The cost of propane, where it comes from, the supply of it and its performance aspects clearly show that the next five-plus years look very bright, assuming we all do our jobs and become promoters of the solution.

We started in niche volumes doing 300 to 400 vehicles per year. By 2014, I think we can do 10,000 units per year. When you start to hit that critical mass, eventually the OEMs will take notice. Then they may start to implement them into the plan themselves versus us doing it.

I envision the OEMs manufacturing these to some degree out of their plants in 10 years. I also envision tens of thousands of vehicles being produced each year.

The other piece coming is direct injection. As more OEMs offer direct-injection engines, the integration of propane should be made easier and the conversion and upfront costs made less expensive.

What else can be done to continue building momentum around propane autogas?

Mouw: The nice thing about the propane industry is we provide a lot of jobs here in the United States. If we get the propane marketers mobilizing in the United States, you figure state representatives and state senators will go to Washington, D.C., to talk about propane. That’s where we could really make an impact.

The natural gas industry kills us because they have a united front that goes out and makes things happen. We’re made up of moms and pops.

A lot of people in the propane industry don’t even think autogas has a future. If they don’t believe that, then what are they going to do to maintain their businesses? We want to see the marketers mobilize not only for us, but also for their businesses.

Back in February, we took some people to Washington to discuss tax credits and other things. The message we’ve gotten in the past through NPGA is that congressmen have seen people from Roush and Ferrellgas who tell us the importance of incentives, but they’ve never heard about the incentives from [consumers]. So we took Frito-Lay, Aramark, UPS and others to Washington to meet with congressmen and senators.

In a lot of cases, these people had never even heard of propane. We create jobs and provide economic benefits, but these people have no clue what propane is and the benefits for the local municipality. It’s painful that our industry doesn’t see the need to promote itself more clearly.

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik was a senior editor at LP Gas Magazine.

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