Propane-powered vehicles get a boost

propanetankAn $8.6 million grant from the Department of Energy will help fund the conversion of more than 1,000 vehicles in Virginia and eight other states to run on propane gas.

The grant, part of the national stimulus package, was awarded to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. The DMME will manage the project, along with Virginia Clean Cities, which aims to create a southeastern corridor for propane-powered vehicles.

The Virginia Clean Cities Program is an organization formed in 2001 whose goal is to reduce America’s dependence on imported petroleum products.

While no local fleet vehicles will be converted, a local heavy-duty fleet vehicle distributor, Baker Equipment, is expected to do a share of the work.

In addition to converting 1,064 vehicles, the grant will help fund the creation of 17 publicly accessible propane fueling stations, one of which will be located at the Baker Equipment facility in Scott’s Addition.

The program, called Paving the Way With Propane, will be implemented by Alliance AutoGas, a network of fuel conversion specialists that will perform the actual work of installing the propane fuel systems. Baker is a member of that alliance.

Skip Baker, president of the family business that started in 1919, said he is excited about the grant award.
“We believe it is good for Virginia [and] has the potential to create green jobs, as well as displace the use of petroleum and clean the air,” said Baker. There’s “something in it for everybody.”

Chelsea Jenkins, executive director of Virginia Clean Cities, said the grant will fund about a third of the total costs of the project.  She said the grant was extremely competitive.

“There were about 150 applications, and they only signed off on 20 to 30,” said Jenkins. “There was pretty stiff competition, and I don’t think anyone applied that put this together in a week.”

Jenkins said 205 vehicles will be converted in Virginia, 200 of which belong to two Northern Virginia-based taxi companies that serve Dulles Airport.

She said the reason that the DMME is overseeing a program that reaches vehicles not only in Virginia but also in states from Maryland to Florida is because of the way the grant is structured.

“The eligible entities were only state agencies or local municipalities in cooperation with a Clean Cities Commission,” Jenkins said. “DMME has the contract with the DOE, and we have the contract with DMME.”

Jenkins noted that a program of this size and scope has never been attempted.

“There has never in the history of the Clean Cities program been this kind of funding available for alternative fuel projects. We’ve never managed anything this large in scope because we’ve never had the opportunity,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said Baker Equipment will be performing some of the conversions, but it hasn’t been determined which fleets will be worked on where.

Over the course of the four-year project, 15,772,100 gallons of gasoline will be displaced.

According to Alliance AutoGas spokesperson Shelby Stephens, propane fuel on average runs between 60 cents to $1.20 cheaper than unleaded gasoline depending on location.

However, there is a federal tax credit of 50 cents per gallon, he said.

“One of the benefits for the fleets working with alliance is that they will see that tax credit upfront,” said Stephens. Alliance basically buys the credit from the consumer at the time of purchase.

According to Stephens, a propane hybrid gets about 80 percent of miles per gallon as gasoline. Propane is stored in liquid form at the fueling station and inside the vehicle’s tank. When the vehicle is running, the liquid propane is vaporized and injected into the engine.

Stephens said Alliance has identified fleets as the ideal customer because of the high number of vehicle miles driven and the localized radius in which they travel.

“The high mileage allows the company to see a significant cost savings even though the miles per gallon are slightly lower,” Stephens said.

Al Harris covers green energy for BizSense. Please send news tips to [email protected]

propanetankAn $8.6 million grant from the Department of Energy will help fund the conversion of more than 1,000 vehicles in Virginia and eight other states to run on propane gas.

The grant, part of the national stimulus package, was awarded to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. The DMME will manage the project, along with Virginia Clean Cities, which aims to create a southeastern corridor for propane-powered vehicles.

The Virginia Clean Cities Program is an organization formed in 2001 whose goal is to reduce America’s dependence on imported petroleum products.

While no local fleet vehicles will be converted, a local heavy-duty fleet vehicle distributor, Baker Equipment, is expected to do a share of the work.

In addition to converting 1,064 vehicles, the grant will help fund the creation of 17 publicly accessible propane fueling stations, one of which will be located at the Baker Equipment facility in Scott’s Addition.

The program, called Paving the Way With Propane, will be implemented by Alliance AutoGas, a network of fuel conversion specialists that will perform the actual work of installing the propane fuel systems. Baker is a member of that alliance.

Skip Baker, president of the family business that started in 1919, said he is excited about the grant award.
“We believe it is good for Virginia [and] has the potential to create green jobs, as well as displace the use of petroleum and clean the air,” said Baker. There’s “something in it for everybody.”

Chelsea Jenkins, executive director of Virginia Clean Cities, said the grant will fund about a third of the total costs of the project.  She said the grant was extremely competitive.

“There were about 150 applications, and they only signed off on 20 to 30,” said Jenkins. “There was pretty stiff competition, and I don’t think anyone applied that put this together in a week.”

Jenkins said 205 vehicles will be converted in Virginia, 200 of which belong to two Northern Virginia-based taxi companies that serve Dulles Airport.

She said the reason that the DMME is overseeing a program that reaches vehicles not only in Virginia but also in states from Maryland to Florida is because of the way the grant is structured.

“The eligible entities were only state agencies or local municipalities in cooperation with a Clean Cities Commission,” Jenkins said. “DMME has the contract with the DOE, and we have the contract with DMME.”

Jenkins noted that a program of this size and scope has never been attempted.

“There has never in the history of the Clean Cities program been this kind of funding available for alternative fuel projects. We’ve never managed anything this large in scope because we’ve never had the opportunity,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said Baker Equipment will be performing some of the conversions, but it hasn’t been determined which fleets will be worked on where.

Over the course of the four-year project, 15,772,100 gallons of gasoline will be displaced.

According to Alliance AutoGas spokesperson Shelby Stephens, propane fuel on average runs between 60 cents to $1.20 cheaper than unleaded gasoline depending on location.

However, there is a federal tax credit of 50 cents per gallon, he said.

“One of the benefits for the fleets working with alliance is that they will see that tax credit upfront,” said Stephens. Alliance basically buys the credit from the consumer at the time of purchase.

According to Stephens, a propane hybrid gets about 80 percent of miles per gallon as gasoline. Propane is stored in liquid form at the fueling station and inside the vehicle’s tank. When the vehicle is running, the liquid propane is vaporized and injected into the engine.

Stephens said Alliance has identified fleets as the ideal customer because of the high number of vehicle miles driven and the localized radius in which they travel.

“The high mileage allows the company to see a significant cost savings even though the miles per gallon are slightly lower,” Stephens said.

Al Harris covers green energy for BizSense. Please send news tips to [email protected]

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Brian Glass
Brian Glass
13 years ago

A question: How come propane fuel for cars is 60 cents to $1.20/ gal. less than regular unleaded gasoline but is more expensive than oil as a home heating fuel?