Meat Supplier switches to Autogas for delivery fleet

Tim Stevens wanted to find an alternative fuel option for his diesel vehicles, which used around 700 gallons of diesel (about 2,650 litres) per week. After doing some research, Autogas seemed like the best fit, especially because Stevens Sausage already used LPG in its manufacturing process.

Stevens Sausage, a supplier of meat products (sausage, ham, hot dogs, etc.) in eastern North Carolina, delivers to grocery stores and restaurants in more than 10 states east of the Mississippi. Stevens Sausage’s 13-vehilce fleet includes Ford F-650s, Ford Transit Connects, Silverado pickups, a GMC Sierra pickup and a Chevrolet Colorado pickup.

The entire Stevens Sausage’s fleet has been converted to run on Autogas. A single Autogas dispenser was installed off of its existing 12,000-gallon (ca. 23 metric tons) LPG tank.

Conversion Process

Stevens learned more about Autogas at Triangle Cities Clean Coalition meetings and started networking with other companies also interested in alternative fuels.

The majority of the investment was offset by a Clean Fuel Advanced Technology grant from North Carolina Clean Energy including the purchase of new vehicles and the retrofit. “The grant money helped cover 70% of the conversion cost,” says Stevens.

Stevens transitioned his fleet to Autogas over a period of about a two year. The vehicles, purchased new from Capital Ford in Raleigh, were converted in the field by ICOM North America. According to Stevens, a technician could install the conversion kit in one day — the hardest part was getting the Autogas tanks into the vehicles.

“A bi-fuel engine is like having two fuel systems,” says Stevens. “The vehicle starts on gasoline but usually switches to propane within seconds. We don’t have to use gasoline too often, but it’s nice to have it on a few of our routes where the propane will run out.”

Bi-fuel vehicles are essential in those markets where network coverage is not ideal, thus mitigating the risk of running out of fuel when underway. The company’s facility was modified to accept a single refueling dispenser to the existing tank. The drivers were trained on how to safely refill the vehicles with the propane dispenser and how to work the propane fuel gauge. These measures allow the company to run their own refuelling operations.

Fuel Savings

With about 200 miles (ca. 360 km) per day, each fleet vehicle averages around 45,000 miles (ca. 60,000 km) per year. The fleet consumes over 60,000 gallons of Autogas.

“We use about 1,200 to 1,300 gallons of propane autogas a week and see about a 50% savings on fuel,” says Stevens. “The cost savings really add up.”

LPG is much lighter than diesel, thus one volume unit of Autogas will contain less energy than the same volume of diesel. However, while the volume consumed increases, the energy used is roughly the same and the emissions are lower.

“Propane isn’t for everyone,” adds Stevens. “You need the right situation.”