Achieve financial, environmental sustainability with propane gas

Propane autogas is a proven and available alternative fuel that can reduce emissions while lowering operating costs. Written by Steve Whaley.

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When it comes to alternative fuels, there’s a myth: if companies want to lower emissions or meet fleet sustainability goals, they’re going to have to pay more to do it. It’s often one of the reasons fleet owners are initially reluctant to consider energy sources besides gasoline or diesel.

But as many fleets are coming to realize, that’s just not the case. Current diesel prices remain high and gasoline prices have been volatile over the last several months. Fleet owners looking for stability need to start considering other options.

Transitioning to an alternative fuel doesn’t mean that vehicle owners have to pay more to operate a clean fleet. In fact, there’s an alternative energy source available today that can reduce harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 96% compared to diesel, reduce a fleet’s carbon footprint, and still provide fleet owners with the lowest total cost-of-ownership of any fuel. It’s called propane autogas.

Thanks to its low fuel and maintenance costs, propane autogas has helped many fleet owners achieve a “green” status without compromising on range or performance, while also providing the lowest total cost of operation. Here’s how.

Consider the cost of the fuel

Historically, the cost of propane autogas itself is consistently less than both gasoline and diesel. Propane autogas can beat diesel on price per gallon by as much as 50%. Propane autogas prices don’t fluctuate as sharply as other fuels, so fleet owners are able to more easily manage fuel budgets and meet year-end objectives. Not to mention, because propane is domestically produced with so much abundance that nearly two-thirds of the energy produced in the U.S. is exported, the energy source is more protected from international market volatility.

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Also, many propane autogas retailers will work with fleet owners to create a contract that allows fleets to lock in a set price per gallon over a period of time agreeable to both parties. This is another layer of protection against fluctuating fuel prices. Because propane autogas is widely available across the U.S., fleet owners looking to make the switch can work with a local propane supplier who can help them select and install an affordable refueling infrastructure and develop a fuel contract to fit their needs.

Evaluate maintenance costs

The second way that many fleets realize cost savings with propane autogas is in the maintenance costs. Compared to a diesel engine, maintaining a propane autogas engine is more cost-effective and convenient overall. For starters, propane autogas engines require less oil by volume than diesel engines, which can decrease preventative maintenance costs at each interval over the life of a vehicle.

Propane autogas emissions systems are also less complex because the energy source is clean, eliminating the need for costly additional fluids and filters like diesel emissions fluid (DEF) and diesel particulate filters (DPF). Even as more low-emissions diesel technology becomes available, the added maintenance costs and inconveniences that come with this technology may be overlooked. Fleet owners will spend additional time, money and effort to maintain these emissions systems that are constantly becoming more expensive as emission standards become increasingly stricter. Additionally, the costs associated with downtime to complete these repairs can adversely affect a company’s revenue capabilities.

Compared to gasoline, propane autogas has fewer residual contaminants to the oil that cause engine wear, and there is also less carbon build-up on the valves that naturally occurs in gasoline engines. Simply put, owners enjoy lower maintenance costs.

Take advantage of available financial assistance

Although the total cost-of-ownership for propane autogas vehicles is substantially less without relying on financial incentives, there are several funding sources for fleets that transition to alternative fuels like propane autogas. One example is the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit. Propane autogas fleet operators who apply for the tax credit will be able to claim a credit for every gasoline gallon equivalent of propane autogas purchased, or about 37 cents per gallon. Vehicle operators interested in taking advantage of these tax credits should consult their own tax advisers first regarding any claims for credits or refunds.

For school transportation directors looking to make the switch, the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program will provide $5 billion in funding over the next 5 years (FY 2022–2026), including up to $500 million each year for Clean School Buses, which includes propane autogas. Details on the program can be found here.

Additional opportunities are also available through other federal and state grants. Fleets should check with their area Clean Cities Coalition to learn more about what funding may be available where they live.

While all of these cost savings are great for the bottom line, the real benefit here is to the neighborhoods these fleets operate in. With significant reductions in harmful emissions, companies that go green with propane autogas are contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment for their community.

Fleet owners interested in learning more about propane autogas vehicles to visit Propane.com/Fleet-Vehicles.

Stephen Whaley is the director of on-road business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached atstephen.whaley@propane.com.

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