The Autogas Manifesto for Fleet Managers, from DC Velocity

A Ford F-150 that has been converted to run on propane, courtesy of the gang at Roush CleanTech. (image: trucktrend.com)

A recent profile on autogas as an alternative fuel for fleet vehicles is bouncing around propane circles today. It’s a well-done piece from the trade publication DC Velocity — for “distribution center” managers — and reads like an autogas manifesto for decision-makers weighing the switch to LPG. Have a look here.

What’s clear from the story is that autogas is building its resume with big-name distributors. The frozen-food king Schwan’s has been a propane customer since the 1970s, running 75-percent of its 6,000 truck fleet on LPG. And last month, the snack-maker FritoLay announced it would test-drive light-duty propane trucks, with an eye toward powering 2,000 vehicles in their fleet on the fuel.

Long-term savings remain the chief motivation. “Every year, we do an analysis — diesel vs. propane, or diesel vs. gas and propane — and operationally, the numbers continue to show that it is more economical for us to operate on alternative fuels,” the Schwan’s fleet maintenance director tells DC Velocity.

But there are still a few tricky financials, too. The options for LPG-trucks are growing, but still slim, and the vehicle typically cost $6,500 to $11,000 more than gas vehicles. (Schwan’s bypasses that by converting all its own vehicles — which requires about eight hours of tinkering.) And early adopters have to find mechanics who can service propane vehicles.

So here’s a thought: Raise the clamor for an American automaker to put out a propane-mobile. So far, autogas has been peddled almost exclusively as a fleet vehicle fuel — though there’s already an existing network of LPG fueling stations, and the driving public has shown a curiosity in all manner of alternative fuel vehicles (how else to explain a $109,000 battery-powered sports car?). It would boost propane’s profile as an alternative fuel, and bring a comet’s tail of mechanical support and under-the-hood innovation.

Other countries are seeing dedicated propane-powered cars brought to market. (Check out this little lady.) The U.S. is overdue for one, too.

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