A New Propane-Mobile, Courtesy of General Motors

A cutaway van, also known as a "senior citizen bus" or "silver-haired chariot." (image: trucktrend.com)

With most of the propane car action happening overseas, we’ve eagerly waited to see which automaker would be the first to bring an LPG-car to the U.S. market. And we will continue waiting, but with an encouraging sign from General Motors today: The carmaker plans to release a cutaway van (or “senior citizen bus” as most of us say) which runs on autogas, sparing buyers from adapting the engine themselves. General Motors announced that it was partnering with Knapheide Manufacturing to produce the vehicle, according to this report from Motor Trend.

While LPG-conversions are an option for a number of fleet vehicles — the Ford F-150 is a popular one — GM would be the first to release a machine that runs on propane when it leaves the factory. For consumers, these conversions typically carry a pricetag of around $5,000; it seems safe to assume Detroit can get it done cheaper than that. Though today’s announcement does not indicate if the new cutaways will be dedicated propane vehicles, or bi-fuel, which can run on gasoline, too.

With the move, General Motors clearly sees potential in autogas, which is the best-selling road fuel after gasoline and diesel. “LPG infrastructure has progressed rapidly, so it’s easier for our customers to refuel in convenient locations across the country,” one GM official said. “When our customers order the LPG option, they’re getting a sensible fuel alternative with the convenience of a one-stop ordering process.”

This is territory that school buses have already pioneered. The busmaker Blue Bird currently has a pair of LPG-powered models in its line-up.

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