Picking up on propane fuel
For nearly 15 years, DeKalb County, Ga., has been operating propane-fueled trucks in its fleet to reduce gasoline consumption and fuel costs. In that time, it has tried many variations of the technology, including bi-fuel vehicles that use propane or gasoline, all purchased through the original manufacturers. Most recently, the county added to its fleet 75 light-duty trucks that are fueled solely by liquefied propane, bringing its total number of active propane vehicles to 121 in a fleet of approximately 3,360 vehicles.
DeKalb County purchased 73 Ford F-150 LPI Conversion trucks in 2008 as part of its regular vehicle replacement cycle and two more in 2009. The 5.4-liter V-8 trucks feature liquid propane injection technology developed by Livonia, Mich.-based Roush, a specialty vehicle company. Unlike previous models of Ford propane trucks that converted liquid propane to a vapor before engine injection, the current models inject liquid propane directly into the engine block.
Every county department that uses pickup trucks is using the new vehicles, including police, sanitation and parks. Drivers refuel at any of the county’s seven propane-fueling sites, which also are publicly accessible and used by neighboring jurisdictions. The trucks are covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, which eases maintenance demands on fleet division staff and reduces potential maintenance costs.
The new propane trucks can drive 430 miles on 35 gallons from the 50-gallon tank, compared to an average of 225 miles on the older 28-gallon tank, according to Greg Brake, interim associate director of Public Works Fleet Management. Propane also costs the county less than diesel and gasoline; the average $1.75 per gallon price is further discounted with a 50-cent-per-gallon federal rebate. Last year, the county used 70,370 gallons of propane. “I foresee the cost of gas going up considerably in the next few years,” Brake says. “I expect propane will always be cheaper than gasoline, especially with the rebate.”
Brake says the county would expand its propane fleet faster if more models were available. “The availability of units limits us on expanding our fleet,” he says.
Project: Propane-fueled pickup trucks
Jurisdiction: DeKalb County, Ga.
Agency: Public Works Department, Fleet Management Division
Vendors: Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co.; Livonia, Mich.-based Roush
Date: May 2008