Is propane autogas right for your fleet?

Medium-duty fleet owners in multiple markets are realizing financial and environmental sustainability with propane autogas. Written by: Steve Whaley of the Propane Education & Resource Council

0
168

Each of us has personally felt the pain at the pump in recent months when it comes to filling up our tank. But for fleet owners, that sting has been even worse with record diesel and gasoline prices that have crushed operating budgets.

At the same time, fleets are also facing more pressure than ever to reduce emissions and operate a clean fleet. Now is the time for fleet owners to take a hard look at their operations and determine if a new energy source is right for their fleet.

- advertisement -

Propane autogas is an ideal clean fuel option for medium-duty (class 3 to 7) fleets that need a range of up to 400 miles per day and the ability to carry a heavier payload.

In recent years, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has seen growth in fleets in the package delivery, food and beverage delivery, paratransit and school transportation industries. As an affordable and clean energy source, fleets in these markets are finding ways to achieve environmental sustainability without risking financial sustainability.

Package Delivery Fleets

At a recent event in Denver hosted by PERC and Drive Clean Colorado, Joshua Stoneback, the CEO of Hi Pro, Inc., a trucking and logistics company that has contracted with the United States Postal Service for over 40 years, said it best, “Those of us that move the mail strive to embody a culture of serving others, and that includes reducing emissions in the communities in which we operate.”

Package delivery fleets face unique challenges in needing to prioritize reliability and performance. But as good stewards of the community, fleets like Hi Pro are also adding sustainability to the list.

In 2022, Hi Pro added five, class 6 ultra-low nitrogen oxide (NOx) propane autogas box trucks to its fleet. Daily, the vehicles need to operate from the mountains west of Denver to the plains to the east, all while trying to keep a perfect on-time percentage rate for delivery. When looking for a clean fuel that could get the job done, Stoneback prioritized an energy source that could provide a range of up to 400 miles in a single refuel and had the performance to carry the payload in the mountains.

Propane autogas not only met those goals, but it also checked the sustainability box. Over its lifetime, the fleet will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% and NOx emissions by 96%. Best of all, because propane autogas is affordable, Stoneback expects to save thousands of dollars every year compared to diesel.

As Jennifer Beiro-Revéillé, the senior director for environmental affairs and corporate sustainability at USPS said during the event, “It’s good business and it’s good for our environment. You can’t beat that.”

Food and Beverage Fleets

Similar to package delivery, food and beverage delivery fleets also underscore the importance of delivering items on time. The success or failure of the company can be directly attributed to the performance of the fleet. National delivery fleets like Nestle Waters, Schwan’s, and Bimbo Bakery have trusted propane autogas for many years.

Regional fleets have also been able to reap the benefits. Alpha Baking Co., a Chicago-based bakery delivery company, has operated a mostly propane autogas fleet for nearly a decade. This year, the company hit 5 million miles driven with alternative fuel vehicles. In that time, Alpha Baking Co. has been able to significantly reduce its fuel costs, as the price of propane autogas is up to 50% less than diesel. This is especially beneficial during times of high diesel prices like much of the country is currently experiencing.

Not to mention, today’s propane autogas engines are 90% cleaner than the mandated EPA standards and are certified to the optional ultra-low NOx emissions standard as defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for heavy-duty engines with 0.02 grams per brake horsepower-hour. This allows fleets like Alpha Baking to not only exceed emissions regulations today but also well into the future.

Paratransit Fleets

It’s one thing to operate a clean fleet moving products or goods, but clean transportation takes on another meaning when public transit is involved. Paratransit fleet organizations are under an elevated level of scrutiny to ensure they are servicing the public with clean and reliable transportation. Thousands of paratransit vehicles from coast to coast are operating with propane to achieve that goal.

One of those fleets is Florida’s Broward County Transit. When Paul Strobis, the fleet director for Broward County Transit, began looking for a clean energy solution, there were several factors to consider. First, the vehicle range. With a 471-square-mile county, Broward County Transit provides more than 900,000 trips a year across 11.5 million miles. Second, the environment. Broward is nestled between the Everglades and coral reefs, so the energy source had to reduce emissions. Finally, the cost. The energy solution couldn’t drive up the cost of achieving a high-volume, near-zero emissions fleet.

When Strobis took these factors into account, the energy source that could achieve all these goals at once was propane autogas. Not only has Broward County been able to easily keep up with the volume of passengers, but the fleet has reduced carbon emissions by thousands of metric tons over six years and saved more than $9.8 million in the process.

School Transportation

Much like paratransit fleets, school transportation officials also need to provide a safe, clean, and healthy ride for students. For decades, propane autogas has been able to get the job done. Every day, more than 1.3 million students ride to school in 22,000 propane-powered school buses. Propane autogas buses are currently in 1,000 districts across the United States, and it is the most popular alternative fuel for the school bus industry.

One of those fleets is Mobile County Public Schools System (MCPSS) in Mobile, Alabama. MCPSS was the first district in the state to begin using propane autogas buses in 2014. At the time, they wanted to find a way to be more environmentally friendly and improve operating costs. Now, nearly a decade later, MCPSS has continued to invest in the clean energy source and operates more than 250 propane autogas buses, amounting to one-third of the fleet. Each propane autogas bus emits 150,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime compared to diesel.

Best of all, the fleet hasn’t had to compromise on cost to provide this clean ride for students. Because propane autogas provides fleets with one of the lowest total cost-of-ownerships, thanks to low fuel and maintenance costs, districts like MCPSS can afford to scale their fleet and more quickly replace aging diesel buses. In fact, MCPSS saves $2,348 annually per propane autogas bus compared to diesel, or nearly $600,000 in total savings each year.

These are just a few of the thousands of fleets nationwide that have been able to realize environmental and financial sustainability by transitioning to an energy source that meets their needs and delivers on their desire to operate a clean fleet.

Fleet owners interested in learning more should visit Propane.com/Fleet-Vehicles.


Steve Whaley is the director of autogas business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at stephen.whaley@propane.com. Visit Propane.com for more information.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here