Propane Autogas Brings Big Savings For Indiana Taxpayers

Indiana Department of Transportation employee Matt Scheckel takes the wheel of a CNG-powered truck. The state is converting more than 600 vehicles to propane and natural gas in a plan that will save taxpayers $1 million a year in fuel costs. (image: journalgazette.com)

Indiana taxpayers will save about $1 million a year under a plan to convert more than 600 state vehicles to propane or natural gas, journalgazette.com reported Monday.

The plan will also give Indiana the nation’s largest state-wide propane refueling network, with nearly all its operations located within 30 miles of a propane fueling site. Indiana already has the infrastructure for 115 propane-refueling stations.

LT. Gov. Becky Skillman unveiled details about the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) plan on Monday. More than 600 of the department’s work trucks and cargo vans are being converted to run on propane autogas this year. Nineteen others will be converted to run on compressed natural gas (CNG).

Propane is the third most popular vehicle fuel behind gasoline and diesel. It is much cheaper than conventional fuels and cleaner burning, emitting up to 90 percent less carbon monoxide, ozone and hydrocarbon emissions, Skillman said.

Nearly all the propane consumed in the US is produced domestically as a byproduct of natural gas processing and crude oil refining. Supply is expected to increase.
Skillman said Indiana taxpayers would save about $1 million a year in fuel costs under the plan.

CNG and propane are expected to replace 500,000 gallons of unleaded or diesel fuel each year. This is a perfect fit for a frugal administration.

The vehicle conversions were being funded by a $6.3 million federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant. INDOT chief of staff Robert Zier said the alternative energy conversion plan made sense given the soaring price of world oil.

As fuel costs skyrocket, state government is protecting taxpayers by seeking out cleaner-burning domestic energy sources and technologies.

Propane and CNG were also more environmentally responsible, Zier said.

If it’s spilled, it’s gone. It will not leach into the ground. A hundred years from now, there will be no tanks to dig up, nothing left to clean up.

INDOT technical service director Joe Rudolph said each vehicle conversion would cost between $5500 and $7200, but the department would easily recover that money through long-term fuel savings. The vehicles would all use conventional gasoline when started but switch to propane or CNG once they warmed up.

The moves in Indiana follow this month’s Presidential Memorandum in which Barack Obama ordered the entire federal vehicle fleet to run on alternative fuels by 2015 in a bid to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

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