Propane Autogas

Exploring Propane as a Fleet Fuel Source

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In an environment with rising gasoline prices, propane could offer a viable option for fleet managers looking for an alternative-fuel source. 

There’s a misconception that propane autogas is more expensive than traditional fuels, noted Michael Taylor, director of autogas development for the Propane Education & Research Council.

But, the actual cost of wholesale propane typically falls between the price of oil and natural gas — the two sources of propane, he added.

In the first week of May 2019, the national average price per gallon of propane autogas was $1.45. The national average cost of regular grade gasoline was $2.86.

“There is a small segment of the fleet industry who may have tried propane autogas years ago and wasn’t pleased with the performance,” said Taylor. “Over the past decade [there have been] dramatic improvements in propane engine and fuel system technologies.”

Total Cost of Ownership for a Propane Vehicle

Fleets with light- or medium-duty trucks, delivery vans, sedans, shuttle busses, and school busses are all viable candidates for propane autogas, noted Taylor.

In order to use propane as a fuel source, fleets need to first modify their vehicles’ engines through the use of an EPA or CARB-certified conversion kit.

This presents the biggest hurdle in terms of total cost of ownership for a fleet considering a conversion to propane. The cost to convert a vehicle to accept propane autogas ranges between $6,000 and $12,000, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

This initial cost is eventually offset through a fuel source that can cost between 30% and 50% less than gasoline, Taylor noted.

However, fuel economy for a propane-powered vehicle does tend to be lower than gasoline vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. On average, propane-powered vehicles see 5-10% lower miles per gallon than their gasoline alternatives, Taylor noted.

This hit to fuel economy, however; is offset by the considerably lower fueling costs. 

Propane’s high octane rating — around 106 compared to gasoline’s 87-93 — along with its low-carbon and low-oil contamination characteristics leads to improved engine life compared to gasoline engines, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The comparatively cleaner fuel typically leads to lower maintenance costs as well. 

When it comes time to retire the vehicle from a company’s fleet, fleet owners have several options in terms of how they can remarket their propane vehicles.

A fleet manager can remarket their propane vehicles as-is, as there are buyers who are looking for vehicles already equipped with propane conversion kits.

“Dependent upon the vehicle’s age and mileage, some buyers will choose to deploy the propane autogas vehicles into their operation while other buyers may choose to remove the high-value components which can be remanufactured and sold as aftermarket parts,” said Taylor. 

The inventory of propane trucks in the wholesale market is increasing and the number of buyers for used propane autogas trucks is increasing with it, according to Taylor.

Fleet managers remarketing their propane-converted vehicles can also choose to remove the propane autogas fuel system, reinstall the OEM gasoline fuel system, and remarket the vehicle as a gasoline truck, Taylor added.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet

Original Article

Tell Congress to Include Propane Infrastructure in S. 674

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LEGISLATIVE ALERT – Tell Congress to Include Propane Infrastructure in S. 674

Electric and hydrogen infrastructure is receiving preferential treatment in recently introduced legislation – so tell Congress to not play favorites and provide opportunities for all alternative fuels, including propane.

The National Alternative Fuel Corridors program, which was created through the FAST Act in 2015, ordered the Federal Highway Administration to create interstate highway corridors with appropriate signage for alternative fueling stations. The corridors included four alternative fuels: electricity (battery electric vehicles), hydrogen, propane, and natural gas.

Recently, Senator Tom Carper introduced S. 674, the “Clean Corridors Act of 2019.” Among other things, this bill would create grant funding opportunities for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations and hydrogen fueling infrastructure along the designated alternative fuel corridors. But under S. 674, propane would not be eligible for grant funding opportunities.  NPGA believes strongly that all fuels designated under Section 1413 of the FAST Act should qualify. 

Click here to send a message to your Congressional representatives today and tell them that propane and other fuels in the FAST Act are eligible for grant funding opportunities for the installation of alternative fueling infrastructure, including S. 674. Language in the bill is currently being considered, so we need you to send a message TODAY!

If you have any questions, please contact NPGA’s Michael Baker at mbaker@npga.org.

Report: Using VW Money to Purchase Diesel Buses is a ‘Wasted Opportunity’

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The nonprofit organizations U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center released the 20-page paper on Thursday. Both organizations refer to themselves as nonpartisan. U.S. PIRG identifies as a counterweight to special interest groups that “threaten our health, safety or well-being,” while Environment America researches and advocates in support of clean air and water.

The report ranks the effectiveness of Beneficiary Mitigation Plans that have been developed by all 50 states and D.C. The plans describe how each share of VW funds will be used to purchase eligible vehicles and infrastructure, namely electric, CNG, propane or diesel.

“Although technically allowable under the settlement, for states to spend this money on outdated diesel or other fossil fuel technology would be a wasted opportunity,” wrote authors Matt Casale and Brendan Murphy of U.S. PIRG.

States are ranked using eight criteria, ranging from prioritization of purchasing electric vehicles, to funding allocated for diesel.

Hawaii and Washington received “A+” scores for planning to use all funds to purchase electric buses and charging infrastructure. Rhode Island received an “A” for prohibiting any diesel bus purchases. Vermont also received an “A” for allocating a small amount of funds to diesel.

Only 11 other states received passing grades of “C” or better.

That left 21 states and D.C. with poor “D” grades for failing to prioritize electric vehicle investment in funding or their state goals, according to U.S. PIRG. Fourteen states and Puerto Rico received an “F” for adopting the minimum guidelines for the spending allotment and failing to prioritize any electric projects. The authors said states with failing grades could allow for up to 100 percent of their awards to go toward new diesel purchases.

“Climate change is a health emergency for our families and our communities,” concluded Morgan Folger, director of Environment America Research & Policy Center Clean Cars Campaign. “States have the unique opportunity to fund projects that will cut carbon pollution by electrifying our cars, trucks and buses. We all deserve clean air and a stable climate, so we should make the most of the Volkswagen settlement money and accelerate electrification.”

But diesel continues to dominate the large school bus market, despite inroads made over the past few years by propane. According to a survey of school bus manufacturer last fall, the number of new diesel vehicle builds outpaced propane by nearly 11 to 1 for the manufacturing period of Nov. 1, 2017 through Oct. 31, 2018.

CNG and electric school buses registered mere blips on the school bus radar. Combined, the two accounted for not quite 2 percent of all buses manufactured.

“Forecasters seem to agree that, for the next five to 15 years and beyond, diesel will remain the primary technology for commercial trucking, thanks to its unique combination of features,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF) at the Fuels Institute annual meeting this week in Dallas.

Schaeffer asked, “Will there be some inroads made in niche fleets and operations using all electric, hybrid or hydrogen technologies? Yes, of course. Some of these technologies are in development and limited use today, as manufacturers are developing a range of fuels and technologies to best serve their customers. It’s safe to say we’ll also see an increasing use of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuels, as well as the next-generation of diesel that is even nearer-to-zero emissions.”

DTF argues that active selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems that use diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) as a catalyst, along with diesel particulate filters (DPF) to reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions by up to 90 percent, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions by 50- to 90 percent and particulate matter emissions by over 90 percent.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, diesel fuel emits 161.3 pounds of carbon dioxide per million British thermal units, or BTUs, compared to 139 pounds from propane and 117 pounds from CNG.

The data does not reflect near-zero emissions now possible from propane systems that meet the 0.02 grams of NOx brake/horsepower per hour. And electric emits no emissions from the tailpipe. Still, electric vehicles have a carbon footprint when accounting for material mining, refining and manufacturing.

A recent study by Volkswagen found that where diesel performs better is in the production phase. Battery production and raw material extraction for its e-Golf passenger car resulted in 96.55 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than for its Golf TDI (29 g CO2/km versus 57 g CO2/km).

Still, VW concluded that the e-Golf emits 15 percent less CO2 over the entire lifecycle than the Golf TDI (119 g CO2/km versus 140 g CO2/km). The e-Golf also emitted over 44 percent less CO2 (111 g CO2/km) during the use phase than its diesel counterpart (140 g CO2/km). “It is evident that in the vehicle with an internal combustion engine, most of the emissions occur during the use phase, that is, in the supply chain of the fossil fuel and the combustion,” the report found.