The Logistics of Converting to Propane

Converting to PropanePropane comes from the processing of natural gas. With propane, you can meet lower emissions standards, get special incentives or tax credits for using an alternative fuel vehicle, and reduce the wear and tear on your engine.

According to Campbell-Parnell, an Arizona-based company that converts vehicles to alternative fuel, propane’s 104 pump octane rating, and low carbon and oil contamination characteristics can result in documented engine life of two to three times that of gasoline.

Campbell-Parnell is one of the companies in the United States that will convert your vehicle to propane. Their goal is to promote a “cleaner, healthier environment through the utilization of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified alternative fuel vehicles. The company’s products will not only meet EPA standards but will exceed these standards and provide the highest quality EPA-certified products on the market. The introduction of EPA-certified AFV’s in fleets will not only help the environment but significantly reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and the countries that supply it.”

How To Get It If Your Vehicle Runs On Gas

If your vehicle runs on gas, Campbell-Parnell will attach the propane to your truck allowing your vehicle to run on both. While this meets EPA standards, it does not meet the California Air Resource Board’s (CARB), which will typically only certify a dedicated fuel system.

“We feel that the pros of bi-fuel outweigh those of a dedicated system,” says Matt Campbell, owner of Campbell-Parnell. “Of course, you might get a tax credit if it is dedicated, but what happens when an alternative fuel component breaks down? Depending on the availability of components and the accessibility of someone who knows how to service it, your vehicle could be down for longer. For most businesses, time is money, and if you have a bi-fuel vehicle, then that vehicle can continue to run on gas until you can schedule the vehicle for service.”

How To Get It If Your Vehicle Runs On Diesel

“There are kits for diesel engines that add a small spray of propane to the diesel fuel under specific driving conditions that might give you better fuel economy and be a little cleaner,” says Campbell.

There are other companies that make conversion kits for diesel, such as TechnoCarb which makes the EcoDiesel System. However, you will probably want a certified installer to put it on for you. “We have a saying that says that when you add a little propane to diesel, you go a little faster, when you add more propane, you go even faster, but when you add too much, you blow your engine,” says Eric Leivestad with Carburetion and Turbo Systems, a distributor for alternative fuel products. “These systems have to be carefully calibrated. And, it works best on large turbo diesel engines.”

Trucks that come straight from the manufacturer are also an option. Freightliner, Kenworth, and Mack all offer chassis that run off of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). Elgin’s Pelican is available with propane. TYMCO makes their Model 600 that runs on LPG. Check with your favorite manufacturer for other options.

Obviously, if you have to buy a new truck, the cost of going green rises substantially. But, if you are in need of a new truck anyway, looking at one of these models may save you more in the long run while reducing your fleet’s overall emissions.

Sweepers Get Propane

Campbell-Parnell converted all of Night Hawk Sweeping of Texas parking lot sweepers to propane in 2006. The company was willing to pay the upfront cost to reduce their carbon footprint. The conversion was done on a GMC chassis, with the propane sitting between the cab and the sweeper equipment.

The Illinois-based sweeper company, The Katz Group, uses a propane sweeper. “It’s really clean and it runs nice,” says Richard Katz. “It’s easy to convert to propane and a huge cost benefit. Anything that we can do to get away from gas or diesel we try to take a look at. The down sides are that we can’t go very far and we have to make sure that the propane filling place is open, because it isn’t 24 hours like a gas station.”

Cost And Savings

Saving the environment and reducing your carbon footprint is a great goal, and sometimes the main goal for a company, while others would just like to lower their costs. Sometimes when you go green, you can accomplish both.

As this goes to print, the average cost of a gallon of gas is $3.87, while the average cost of propane is $1.82 per gallon (without wholesale discounts). Many of Campbell-Parnell’s customers have a fueling station put on their property allowing them to buy the propane at an even lower cost. “Some states waive the excise tax on propane if you are using it to fill your vehicle,” says Campbell. “Since a large portion of the cost of fuel is taxes, that can result in significant savings.”

Obviously, you will realize that difference in savings. But, keep in mind that fuel prices always fluctuate and your cost savings today may be more or less tomorrow. Other factors come into play as well. Campbell-Parnell has a neat spreadsheet that allows you to calculate your savings based on your current fuel efficiency, the average miles per gallon you get, the cost of gas, the cost of propane, and the size of your fleet.

“In reality, some people can get a return on investment (ROI) in 12 months, while others take 24,” says Campbell. “Most fleets, because they drive more than retail customers, will achieve an ROI in about 18 months. But, again, it just depends on a variety of factors.”

Campbell-Parnell only converts vehicles with gas engines. The cost per vehicle is $6,000 to $7,000. The technology that they use requires spark ignition. Because diesel engines use compression technology, you cannot use the same product. With the Campbell conversion, the gas engine still functions.

Other Considerations

Filling the propane tanks is another factor to consider. “In Arizona, we have propane filling at gas stations,” says Campbell. “But in a different state, you may not have that. We help our clients find out if they are near a provider or if building a filling station on your property is viable. Companies like AmeriGas and Ferrellgas as well as smaller independent propane companies can help with building a filling station.”

Lack of filling stations can be an issue, so before you buy or convert your sweeper, make sure that your community has the infrastructure you need to support it unless you are willing to build one.

Campbell-Parnell works with their customers to train them to use the system. “We make sure the operators are comfortable with the system and answer all of their questions,” says Campbell. “We also conduct training for the mechanics, whether they are onsite or at the shop down the street from the customer, to ensure that they know how to maintain and service the system.”

Before you make a decision on converting, or who to buy from, make sure you do your homework first so that you know what you are getting into. Talk to the different companies that do the conversion as well the manufacturers. Propane can be a great option for some.

For more information on Campbell-Parnell, please visit www.usealtfuels.com

For more information on TechnoCarb, please visit www.technocarb.com

Story by Jennifer Taylor

Resources

For more information:
• Freightliner, please visit www.freightlinertrucks.com
• Kenworth, please visit www.kenworth.com
• Mack, please visit www.macktrucks.com
• Elgin, please visit www.elginsweeper.com
• Tymco, please visit www.tymco.com

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