What is Propane?
Propane, also known as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), is a by-product derived from refining natural gas and crude oil. LPG already has an infrastructure of pipelines and processing storage facilities, putting propane way ahead of the curve regarding efficient distribution. This distribution system has made propane is available at thousands of vehicle fuel stations across the United States. Currently the most accessible of all alternative fuels, Propane can be found at approximately 3,000 publicly accessible US facilities. Refueling requires adequate ventilation due to increased flammability of liquid propane gas. Filling stations are designed with adequate ventilation in mind and with most facilities having the actual depots in uncovered, outdoor locales.
When it comes to propane, most people think about it as a fuel for their hot water and barbecue grills yet it has a much broader application. Propane is the fuel of choice for thousands of forklifts, taxis, and school buses across the nation; all are taking advantage of the clean power of propane fuel. Propane is the third most common vehicular fuel, with over 8 million vehicles worldwide using it. The thousands of filling stations in the United States, has allowed propane to gain a comfortable foothold in the alternative fuel infrastructure.
Propane Powered Vehicles
Propane has enjoyed worldwide use since the 1920's and when you consider that LPG offers fewer ozone forming emissions when partnered with less expense than gasoline, you begin to see the benefits of this alternative fuel. While society is most familiar with it as a fuel for the backyard barbecue grill and home appliances, propane fuel powers more than 200,000 vehicles, and that number is growing. Many vehicle fleets are utilizing the power of propane power-from taxis and school buses to police cars and mail vehicles. It is estimated that Propane fueled cars may experience an estimated 5% lower horsepower when compared to gasoline engines.
Propane is Renewable
Propane is not a renewable fuel, as it is linked to petroleum reserves and already in great demand. Propane's infrastructure is already established, and can continue to help carry the load until other alternatives are more developed. While automobile manufacturers do not advertise that they can build propane powered vehicles, they can do it but, the choices are currently quite limited. It is rumored that some new cars can be special ordered that run on propane but, you should expect to be able to order a fleet versus a single car. Should propane vehicles become more requested, the big three may answer with available models.
Driving a vehicle powered by propane can save money; approximately 85% of all propane used in this country comes from domestic sources, so driving a propane powered vehicle can help reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil and strengthen national energy security. Just because you can't walk into your favorite car dealership and buy your own propane powered vehicle, doesn't mean you cannot have a car or truck fueled by propane. Think conversion - most gasoline engines can be converted to use propane with only a few modifications. There is plenty of information regarding converting a car to use propane but, the work should be only be done by a certified automobile mechanic; do not attempt to do it yourself. Using propane can extend vehicle service life and service / maintenance intervals. ** You should also consider that a typical propane tank size is 5 gallons - converting an automobile would certainly require a larger reserver / supply capapcity. Propane gas becomes liquid under pressure and is supplied and stored as such. LPG has it's own set of safety requirements including using gloves when involved in transferring the fuel from one tank to another.
Propane Fuel Stations
Propane tops the list for alternative fuel station locations yet, careful route planning is necessary when it comes to long distance travel. Propane can be less expensive than gasoline but, it has a lower energy ratio as seen in E85 alternative fuel. Propane powered vehicles typically produce fewer ozone-forming emissions than vehicles powered by (reformulated) gasoline. Tests on light-duty, bi-fuel vehicles have demonstrated a significant reduction in toxic emissions including benzene, butadiene, formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde, while running on propane rather than gasoline.