Like a lot of paratransit organizations, there was a well-defined transportation department goal for Carteret County Area Transportation System (CCATS) in Newport, North Carolina, that involved substantially lowering both vehicle emissions and total operating costs.
A curb-to-curb rural paratransit system, CCATS had been using dual fuel (gasoline and propane) vehicles for years. In 2021 CCATS tried a propane-only choice.
Lower propane prices compared to other fuels offered an easy solution to the agency’s desire to spend less on fuel. The current price of gasoline in Carteret County is about $4.50 per gallon. That compares to just $1.90 for propane – important when you consider the organization’s buses travel between 250 and 300 miles daily and use 84,000 gallons of propane annually.
“We have been able to purchase another vehicle with the fuel savings,” Randy Cantor, CCATS transportation and fleet services director, said. “The savings has given us the ability to offer more services to more individuals.”
CCATS’s propane vehicles can achieve a range of up to 350 miles on a single fill-up, limiting the time drivers spend at the pump. Plus, propane engines don’t give up power. Cantor operates vehicles with the ROUSH CleanTech E-450 cutaway chassis, which retain equivalent horsepower, torque and towing capacity as gas and diesel counterparts. Cantor reported that the CCATS drivers like the ease and flexibility of the propane vehicles and the maintenance staff appreciates that there are no issues with the systems.
In 2017, CCATS installed a propane refueling station on its property, using existing infrastructure and state support. As of summer 2022, the agency is preparing to increase the size of the station for more propane storage capability.
Vehicles that run on propane emit fewer greenhouse gases, smog-producing hydrocarbons and particulate emissions than conventional fuels like gasoline. Propane’s environmental advantages allow it to be classified as an alternative fuel by the U.S. Energy Department.
Funding is available. But according to Cantor, “Any organization considering the switch to propane should just do so even if there are no grants or assistance with purchasing. The system will pay for itself in a matter of months.”
With 80% of his vehicles running on propane, Cantor already has an eye on the future. He’s planning on a virtually 100% propane vehicle fleet by 2023. And Cantor is so confident in the cost savings that he has suggested to Carteret County management to add propane vehicles to other county fleets.