Automakers Say CNG is the Future – What about AutoGas (Propane)?

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Automakers are making it obvious that they see Compressed Natural Gas as the best complement to gasoline in their new Bi-Fuel trucks. Governments are jumping on board too and mandating their fleets be switched. Wait a minute, what about AutoGas (propane)?

Automakers Say CNG is the Future - What about Propane?

Fueling up with gasoline is getting more and more expensive. The future they say is electric and compressed natural gas engines. What about Autogas (propane)?

According to a well-worded editorial written by Stuart Weidie is the CEO of Blossman Gas, president of Asheville, NC-based Alliance AutoGas and the founder of Autogas for America that appeared in the News Observer, we shouldn’t ignore other options just yet.

Weidie says that Governments creating transition targets that would force entire fleets to have CNG Bi-Fuel powered vehicles only is short-sighted. He points out that it would be much better to have a balance of different alternative fuels like Autogas.

He makes a good points including pointing out that Autogas is our country’s “most widely used alternative fuel.” He says:

Autogas powers 17 million vehicles worldwide. It is the third most common transportation fuel after gasoline and diesel, far outpacing natural gas. Both autogas and natural gas are clean, abundant and American-made. But unlike natural gas, autogas is affordable to implement.

One hundred propane autogas fueling stations could be installed in North Carolina, one in every single county, for the cost of just three CNG stations. Converting a vehicle to autogas costs a third as much as converting a vehicle to natural gas. In addition, autogas vehicles fill up as quickly as conventional gasoline vehicles, while natural gas vehicles take 30 minutes or more to fuel.

Well then, why aren’t the new bi-fuel trucks running to Autogas. He says the response is that “Propane follows oil prices and can be too expensive. It is true that propane historically follows oil prices, but propane trades at anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of the price of crude oil.”

What is AutoGas (Propane)
Many may remember propane being around in the 1970s and being used by farmers with a few “do-it-yourself” conversions. The propane used then isn’t nearly the same as used now. Today’s propane engines will get upwards of 90% of the gas mileage compared with gasoline and will have cleaner performance for the engines and less-frequent oil changes.

Autogas (Propane) is the common name for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) when it is used as a fuel in internal combustion engines in vehicles as well as in stationary applications such as generators according to a Wikipedia entry. It is a mixture of propane and butane.

Autogas is widely used as a “green” fuel as it decreases exhaust emissions. In particular, it reduces CO2 emissions by around 35% compared to petrol. One litre of petrol produces 2.3 kg of CO2 when burnt, whereas the equivalent amount of autogas produces only 1.5 kg of CO2 when burnt.[1] It has an octane rating (MON/RON) that is between 90 and 110 and an energy content (higher heating value—HHV) that is between 25.5 megajoules per litre (for pure propane) and 28.7 megajoules per litre (for pure butane) depending upon the actual fuel composition.

Autogas is the third most popular automotive fuel in the world, with approximately 16 million of 600 million passenger cars powered using the fuel, representing less than 3% of the total market share. Approximately half of all autogas-fueled passenger vehicles are in the five largest markets (in ascending order): Turkey, South Korea, Poland, Italy, and Australia.

Converting Your Tundra
Can you convert your Toyota Tundra? Currently, the Alliance AutoGas website doesn’t list the truck as being a candidate, however, it does list many older Ford F-150 and GMC’s. One has to wonder then, how difficult it would be to convert? A phone call to David Finder of Alliance Autogas and it seems they are really only focusing on fleet vehicles at the moment. While he does get several phone calls from individuals, the cost of converting is such that it needs to be done on a greater scale. He also said that once he gets enough phone calls about a certain vehicle, he will reach out to his member agencies to see if they have enough demand of those vehicles to do a conversion.

Internationally, we are hearing from several individuals who have converted their trucks to run on Autogas.  We are exploring these stories and will have more in the future.

Where Propane Currently Stands
As with many of the alternative fuels on the market, Autogas is not the “end all” solution to everyone’s needs. It seems Autogas prices can fluctuate from place to place and there simply isn’t an individual conversion kit. It is likely then that individuals will have to wait to see which fuel comes out on top from fleet vehicles.

In the end, there are critics and proponents on everything including Autogas. What do you think? Is Autogas something you would consider?

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  1. mendonsy says:

    This sounds like another case of the government selecting the technology with the highest paid lobbyists.
    CNG is cheaper (currently) but it has some definite drawbacks compared to LPG. GNG availability is a problem but also the fact that it is much more volatile than LPG and has to be stored at much higher pressure.

    • Jason (Admin) says:

      Good points, as usual. Love your comments on the site – keep em’ coming!

  2. riepu maina says:

    Cool story, bro 🙂

  3. Mike T says:

    The Federal Trade Commission is getting rid of fuel economy labels as it requires automakers to disclose comparative driving range performance between alternative fuel and conventional gasoline vehicles.

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