By Todd Mouw, President, ROUSH CleanTech
According to a University of California Riverside study, diesel-fueled medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are the number one source of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in almost every single metropolitan region in the U.S. NOx is so harmful to human health and the environment that the federal government requires it to be regulated. Think about it this way: every time drivers wait outside a diesel vehicle, they are exposed to soot and NOx.
A key component of reducing a fleet’s emissions and carbon footprint, without losing sight of the bottom line, is propane autogas. Current propane technology enables commercial fleets to order the number of commercial vehicles needed, whether that’s one, a dozen or 100.
In addition to the health and air quality benefits, propane autogas vehicles require less maintenance and cost less than diesel. Compared to diesel, propane autogas engines are so clean that they operate about 50 percent more quietly, which increases safety and decreases driver fatigue.
Southern Eagle Distributing, one of the oldest continual Anheuser-Busch distributorships in the U.S., added two propane autogas vehicles to its fleets to reduce both emissions and costs. The trucks are currently used in Charleston, South Carolina to deliver more than 600 beverage types including beer, soda, energy drinks, juice and water.
“We care about and support our local communities and want to impact them positively. A less polluting fleet benefits everyone,” said Jim Henderson, vice president of operations for Southern Eagle Distributing.
The two Ford F-650 beverage delivery trucks are each equipped with a Ford 6.8L V10 3V engine with a ROUSH CleanTech fuel system. These propane engines are certified to 0.05 grams per brake horsepower-hour for NOx. This engine is 75 percent cleaner than the current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard and 99 percent cleaner than diesel vehicles built before 2007.
Reducing Fuel and Maintenance Costs
Kamps Propane Inc. in Manteca, California has a fleet of 290 vehicles, 70 of which are powered by propane autogas. The propane provider operates its alternatively fueled vehicles to deliver propane for home heating, commercial and agricultural applications in California’s Central Valley. Kamps Propane saves money in both fuel and maintenance.
“The cost of propane autogas in California gives us a two to three dollar per gallon savings over gas or diesel,” said Terry Ayres, president of Kamps Propane. “Our customers need to see us taking steps to reduce our emissions and demonstrate the capabilities of our fuel as an alternative to electric vehicles.” Across the nation, propane autogas costs 30 to 40 percent less than gasoline, and 40 to 50 percent less than diesel.
Ayres added the company also saves in maintenance costs since propane autogas runs clean through the engine. With propane autogas, there is no need for additional fluids or filters; exhaust after-treatment or diesel emissions fluids; particulate trap systems, turbochargers and intercoolers. Compare that with today’s diesel, which requires expensive equipment and high-maintenance systems in order to meet emission standards. Propane fleet operators report savings of 30 to 50 percent on filters and fluids. In addition, propane vehicles’ ability to warm up quickly with no cold-start issues saves both time and money.
Propane Autogas Performs
Propane autogas powers medium-duty commercial vehicles across the country, including towing companies, delivery fleets and shuttle services. Along with being safe, clean and economical, propane autogas’ performance is reliable. Vehicles equipped with ROUSH CleanTech’s propane autogas fuel systems retain equivalent horsepower, torque and towing capacity, and are backed by the same Ford warranty coverage as conventionally-fueled counterparts.
Fleet vehicles regularly function in rough environments. The vehicle fuel tanks used to hold propane autogas are 20 times more puncture-resistant than gasoline or diesel tanks. They are built from carbon steel in compliance with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Propane autogas offers multiple options for infrastructure setups that will keep budgets in check. Propane has the lowest cost of infrastructure of all transportation fuels, including gasoline, diesel, electric and CNG. And with quick fill-up time and a long-driving range, propane autogas vehicles stay on the road. The Propane Education & Research Council’s list of local suppliers can help determine which is best for each fleet.
Commercial fleets can transition from diesel or gasoline to propane autogas without incentives, but incentives further accelerate savings. State and federal incentive and procurement programs can aid with purchase and deployment of propane autogas vehicles. Thanks to the combination of the EPA’s National Clean Diesel funding and the VW settlement funds, all states have near-term opportunities to deploy new commercial fleet vehicles using incentive funds.
There are many types of funding available. The most popular are grants, which are graded against its competitors to determine the best projects, and rebates, often first-come, first-served and ideal for fleets seeking to quickly reserve predetermined discounts on eligible products. Information about Volkswagen funding by state can be found online, and the Energy Department’s Alternative Fuels Data Center maintains a complete listing of all incentive programs.
The Bottom Line
Owners of commercial fleets have a big responsibility when considering the effects of their vehicles on their communities. The reason propane is one of the most common engine fuels in the world — powering more than 27 million vehicles on a daily basis — is due to the myriad of safety, economic and environmental benefits.
About the author
Todd Mouw is president of ROUSH CleanTech, an industry leader of alternative fuel vehicle technology. Mouw has more than two decades of experience in the automotive and high-tech industries. As former president of the NTEA Green Truck Association, Mouw helped set standards in the green trucking industry. To learn more, visit ROUSHcleantech.com.