In southeast Florida, Broward County residents are enjoying cleaner air and less noise thanks to Broward County Transit’s addition of propane autogas vehicles to its fleet. “We’ve emitted 18 million fewer pounds of carbon dioxide emissions in the past five years with our propane fleet,” said Paul Strobis, director of paratransit for Broward County Transit.
Propane autogas, the term used for propane when used in an on-road engine, offers both economic and environmental benefits. Propane transit vehicles emit fewer greenhouse gases, less nitrogen oxides, less carbon monoxide and fewer particulate emissions compared with gasoline.
With 100% of its 337-vehicle fleet operating on propane, Broward County Transit has also seen a dramatic reduction in fuel and maintenance costs. “We saved $9.6 million in fuel costs alone compared with gasoline over the past 7 years. Add in the alt fuel credits and we saved $13.4 million. And that doesn’t include the Florida incentives we received,” said Strobis.
Propane autogas ranks as the most efficient medium-duty transit vehicle fuel, according to a 2021 Energy Department Clean Cities study. In fact, most transit fleets see up to a 50% reduction in fuel and maintenance costs in the first year. Propane vehicles require fewer quarts of oil, fewer oil changes and less costly filter packages. Compared to diesel vehicles, filter packages cost 60% less on propane vehicles and oil changes are performed at 50% less miles.
Strobis also appreciates the safety features that come standard on Broward County Transit’s propane vehicles, which are powered by ROUSH CleanTech’s advanced propane system technology. “Propane is very safe. The manufacturing standards of propane fuel systems are incredibly high. The tank quality is much higher than a gasoline tank,” said Strobis.
Propane autogas is ultra-low carbon, American-made and recognized as a clean alternative fuel. It’s the most cost-effective energy source to reduce NOx emissions.
More than 2,500 paratransit vehicles in the U.S. operate on propane autogas in an effort to meet their sustainability goals, including vehicles operated by San Diego Metropolitan Transit in California, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority in Ohio and Flint Mass Transportation Authority in Michigan.
Over on Florida’s Gulf Coast, LeeTran in Fort Myers operates 40 Ford E-450 propane vehicles that provide approximately 4 million rides per year, including over 100,000 passenger trips. “We converted our vehicles to operate on propane autogas for a number of reasons. It’s an American made fuel with significant environmental benefits; converting to propane infrastructure is more affordable; and propane autogas offers lower fuel prices,” said Robert Southall, former maintenance manager at LeeTran.
The ROUSH CleanTech Ford E-450 cutaway chassis — the one operated by LeeTran — has completed the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Model Bus Testing Program (“Altoona Testing”). This allows transit operators to access federal funds that cover 85% of the entire alternative-fuel vehicle cost with a 15% local match.
Propane also offers the most flexible and cost-effective fueling infrastructure of any fuel — conventional or alternative. Fleet operators can elect to install a refueling structure onsite, have the propane delivered directly to them or utilize a public refueling station. Many fleets elect to install an onsite infrastructure due to its cost-effectiveness and simple maintenance. Because propane’s availability is steady, fuel supply contracts allow customers to lock in pricing and create more security for their budgets even when markets fluctuate.
Florida passengers and drivers report feeling safe and healthy while riding in propane vehicles. And there is no sacrifice on performance or range. “Our passengers have told us how much they like the quiet ride of the propane autogas bus. And, our drivers appreciate that the change to an alternative fuel hasn’t affected the vehicles’ performance,” said Southall.
As more agencies strive to meet sustainability goals while keeping budgets in check, propane autogas continues to rise to the top of the list as the alternative fuel that makes the most sense for fleets of all sizes.
Todd Mouw is executive vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech, an industry leader of alternative fuel vehicle technology. Mouw has served as president of the NTEA Green Truck Association. To learn more, call 800.59.ROUSH or visit ROUSHcleantech.com.