The future of Autogas for fleets in North America

The future of Autogas for fleets in North America

By Tucker Perkins, President, CleanFUEL USA

Today, the price of oil is more than $100 a barrel and financial analysts predict prices will only continue to rise, averaging anywhere from $100 to $120 a barrel this year. Many believe they will hit $200 before long. Retail gasoline prices in the United States increased 13 percent in February and analysts predict that prices will reach $4 per gallon this summer. The dramatic jump in gasoline and diesel prices is hitting everyone hard, especially fleet operators.

That’s why the time is now for fleet managers to embrace the advantages of autogas – propane used as a transport fuel – as an alternative to traditional fuels in North America. The addition of fleet vehicles that consume autogas brings benefits that go well beyond the big reduction in fuel and operating costs for the fleet operators themselves, including cleaner air, reduced dependence on foreign oil imports and the creation of domestic jobs.

Many people don’t realize that autogas is the leading alternative fuel worldwide for medium- and light-duty engines and is the third most common transport fuel behind gasoline and diesel. Global supplies of propane are ample and growing. And unlike other fuels, more than 90 percent of the propane consumed in the United States is produced domestically, meaning greater energy independence and more American jobs. Additionally, an extensive national infrastructure of pipelines, processing facilities and storage is already available for the efficient distribution of propane makes autogas the ideal alternative transport fuel.

Autogas is often overlooked as a bona fide alternative fuel by fleet managers. Yet autogas is here now: the fuel is readily available, the engine technology is advanced and there is a wide choice of factory-built (Original Equipment Manufactured, or OEM) vehicles available.

Autogas infrastructure costs are much lower than other alternative fuels and the fuel itself is substantially cheaper per mile driven, costing up to 50 percent less than gasoline and 30 percent less than diesel. There are also national and state tax incentives in place that help to encourage investment in autogas refueling infrastructure and purchases of autogas-powered vehicles. Depending on the number of vehicles using autogas, this can equate to big savings annually for organizations with major fleets.

The manager of a medium-duty fleet recently told me that fuel costs represent 65 percent of his total operating expenses. If he were to replace or convert his fleet to run on autogas, he could reduce his fuel costs by 30 percent and his operating costs by 20 percent – savings that would flow straight to his bottom line.

Thanks to investment and support from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and major OEMs, we at CleanFUEL USA have been able to develop and commercialize advanced technology that takes advantage of the latest progress in liquid-injection engineering carefully calibrated by the OEMs. General Motors has entered the market with autogas versions of some of its light-duty vehicles for commercial and private use, as well as school and shuttle buses, and is looking to expand its range of autogas-powered vehicles. Ford has a robust line of vehicles and is expanding too. Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) is entering the market with a high-quality medium-duty vehicle. And many other car and truck companies are considering launching autogas vehicles.

With more than 475 000 school buses nationwide transporting 25 million children a day, school districts are realizing the benefits of autogas. Buses that run on autogas pollute less than any other type of bus currently available. In addition, they cut fuel costs drastically, helping schools save money for other valuable uses.

Propane autogas is not the only alternative fuel solution available; it is one choice on the menu of fuel options for replacing gasoline and diesel. I believe autogas is the best choice. But the benefits that autogas can bring are similar to those offered by natural gas, which can be an effective solution in some cases. So autogas will face competition from natural gas in the marketplace. The natural gas industry is well-organized and well-funded, and is able to command substantial attention in Washington and the press. We need to work hard to ensure that the voice of the autogas industry is heard at the same level and that autogas is given the same chance for success as natural gas.

The future for autogas across North America is bright. The reality is we have an abundant fuel which allows for excellent vehicle performance. Combined with lower emissions, inexpensive infrastructure and a proven safety record, autogas just makes sense.

For more information contact Tucker Perkins at: