Monday, December 23, 2013

Alternative Fuels: Is there a Solution? Chapter 7, Researching Propane

In my alternative fuels class, we were given a final project to research and present a 15-minute lecture on a certain alternative fuel. Everyone in the class had to do something different, so I chose to do mine on propane.
The technicians from Freeway Propane were nice enough to provide me with some information. This is what I learned: propane is a clean-burning fuel and is supposedly more abundant and easily accessible than CNG. I found out the overall cost to convert a vehicle into a bi-fuel propane / gasoline truck would be around $17,000. This is about the same cost as a conversion to CNG. That is very pricey.
Pros to owning and maintaining a propane vehicle:

  • Supposed tax incentive upon completion of conversion  
  • Propane is better for emissions, it is nontoxic, nonpoisonous, and insoluble in water. Compared with vehicles fueled by conventional diesel and gasoline, propane vehicles can produce lower amounts of some harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases, depending on vehicle type, drive cycle, and engine calibration.
  • Unlike CNG, since propane is liquefied and not compressed you can store more of it in your secondary tank.
One of my questions in researching propane is why it is considered the red-headed stepchild of alternative fuels. Here's why.

Cons to owning and maintaining a propane vehicle:

  • There are no universal connectors. You can’t simply head to the nearest KOA campground that sells propane and fill your vehicle up if it’s not equipped that way. Which disproves the myth that since propane is sold everywhere you won’t run into the same limited filler stations problem as CNG. Propane has fewer filler stations than CNG.
  • Just like converting a vehicle to CNG, the new computers on the newer models are so technical (sensors and monitors specifically programed to work with gasoline) that you have a potential of jacking up your vehicle's on-board computer by trying to rewire and reprogram it. With this in mind, you're better off purchasing a dedicated propane vehicle (and we have already covered why anything dedicated is a bad idea in my CNG blog).
  • The conversion is very expensive and not worth the cost of saving money on gasoline.
  • Propane has a lower thermal efficiency range in its detonation resistance than gasoline has. With that in mind, you are actually getting worse MPG from propane.
This research helped me decide to never consider getting a propane vehicle since it is also not a cost-effective alternative to gasoline.
This drawn out series of blogs will be concluded next time. What do you think my personal solution to our oil crisis is? Find out on my next blog.

1 comment:

  1. Propane seems like a hassle to me, so I don't think I'd ever go that route unless it was a company vehicle with a fueling station at work.