We Run on Propane: Propane Autogas
North America has propane – lots of it. The abundance has driven prices down and opened up more opportunities for use in diverse areas. In places where motor fuel costs are high, for example, South America, Australia, and some European countries, propane has been widely used for decades as it is substantially more economical than gasoline.
In North America, the use of propane as a motor fuel has had its ups and downs. High gasoline prices in the mid-1980s saw a sharp rise of propane-fueled vehicles in Canada, however the propane conversion systems did not maintain pace with advances in the auto industry such as electronic engine systems, fuel injection and other technologies. Propane autogas eventually developed a bad reputation due to cold weather starting problems, poor performance and engine valve issues.
Propane as a motor fuel is rapidly coming back into the limelight for many reasons.
- New conversion technology has caught up with automotive development and these new systems are very refined. Engines start and warm up on gasoline and automatically switchover to LPG. This happens so smoothly you don’t even notice the transition. Efficiency and power are much improved. If you run out of LPG the system automatically switches back to gasoline. These vehicles run just as smoothly after conversion as before.
- The current price point of propane relative to gasoline is very low due to the abundance of propane flooding the market. North American production of propane has dramatically increased over the last few years. In addition, more strict environmental policies towards flaring are forcing this excess supply to market.
- Environmental awareness is highlighting the positive aspects of burning propane versus diesel or gas. Propane-fueled school buses are a good example. These units are quieter, cleaner, more economical to run, and are virtually odorless compared to their diesel-powered counterparts.
- Propane is the best alternative fuel, hands down. CNG (natural gas conversions) suffer from a severe lack of range, and filling stations are very expensive to install. Electric vehicles also suffer from the limited range issue. It is often forgotten that the electricity used by these “zero emission” vehicles is always converted from another form of energy prior to its delivery to the electrical grid.
Propane autogas is a nice add-on to an existing propane retailers business. Volumes are consistent year round and a single fleet account can consume significant volumes.
Fleet customers can have their own dedicated motor fuel dispenser installed on site which typically consists of a 2000 or 5000 gallon tank, propane auto meter and sometimes a cardlock system to monitor and control fuel usage. Northridge Electric designs and installs control systems for retail propane dispensers as well as larger systems for LPG transload and bulk terminals.