Propane industry paper explores autogas in fleets

October 10, 2016 By    

S2G_SOPMike Taylor feels strongly about the propane industry’s adoption of propane autogas into its own fleet vehicles.

“There is no excuse for the propane industry not to be buying propane-powered vehicles – because of the performance and cost of the fuel. It’s ridiculously low with incentives,” says the director of autogas business development for the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC).

Taylor is supporting that message with a six-page paper that he helped to create for PERC, with data from ICF International. It acknowledges an industry fact at which Taylor shakes his head – namely that “propane marketers continue to specify and purchase diesel- and gasoline-powered engines as their primary fuel sources for their fleet vehicles.” This is in spite of recent advancements of propane autogas fuel system technologies.

The paper points out how propane autogas is the most widely used alternative fuel in the world, powering more than 25 million vehicles, but the U.S. propane autogas-powered vehicle market is composed of fewer than 200,000 vehicles. And the propane industry fleet accounts for a very small percentage of that overall population.

So the potential for growth is great. In fact, if the propane industry ran its more than 54,000 vehicles – bobtails, transports, service trucks, rack trucks and other light- to medium-duty models – on propane autogas, it could add more than 200 million gallons in annual propane demand, the paper explains.

So what’s with the lack of progress? The paper cites possible reasons for marketer hesitancy, listing six specific barriers: proven durability, lack of preferred products, limited options on current vehicle offerings, higher upfront costs, inconsistent dealer support and lack of confidence.

Taylor doesn’t buy into these barriers, though.

“There are no barriers out there for marketers other than those that are perceived,” he says.

Challenges exist with any technology, but fleets will experience more difficulties with diesel than with propane autogas, Taylor contends.

As the former fleet director at Heritage Propane, Taylor oversaw the operation of about 2,000 bobtails. He recognized the advantages of running vehicles on propane autogas.

“I lived it; I walked it,” Taylor says. “I bought the propane vehicles, and I would have bought more if they were available.”

Marketers today have a variety of certified propane autogas vehicle and fuel system options from which to choose – for company-owned and customer fleets. According to the paper, the industry trend today is to convert existing fleet vehicles with aftermarket bi-fuel and dedicated fuel systems, “and it appears that trend will continue.”

“Marketers today simply are hesitant,” Taylor says. “We are trying to get them to specify the vehicles that they purchase better and help them to understand these technologies.”

What do marketers gain by running their fleet vehicles on propane? The paper highlights the lowest total cost of ownership, reduced emissions and a positive brand ripple effect. It also estimates savings to an industry running its entire fleet on propane autogas at more than $250 million in annual fuel costs alone.

“The industry is missing an opportunity to showcase the versatility of the fuel it sells,” according to the paper.

To move the industry forward, the paper says, PERC must continue to develop technologies, engines and chassis with qualified original equipment manufacturers and aftermarket providers that meet the industry’s needs.

For a copy of the paper, visit www.propanecouncil.org. We’d also like to know where you stand on the issue. Are you for or against adding autogas-fueled vehicles into your fleet? Email your comments to me, and we’ll consider publishing them in an upcoming issue.

Cancer initiative

LP Gas parent company North Coast Media (NCM) is again contributing a portion of October issue revenues to cancer research locally. NCM, with a portfolio featuring six brands, is donating $10,000 to Cleveland’s University Hospitals.

About the Author:

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

1 Comment on "Propane industry paper explores autogas in fleets"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. bill brasky says:

    im all in favor of an lp powered service pickup, but in a bobtail you’d be hard pressed to match the torque of a turbo diesel, especially a bobtail with a 5000 gal plus cargo tank, which is commonplace in the Midwest.