Sheriff Darr shows off cars with new propane gas systems 

Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr said he is excited about the department’s propane AutoGas hybrid vehicles because it makes the air cleaner and saves taxpayers money.

Darr showed off the vehicles Friday at a newly implemented AutoGas fueling station on Cusseta Road.

“I’m always looking for innovative ways to save money and this is one,” said Darr, standing near a department vehicle that had been converted from one that ran strictly on gasoline to one that runs on propane AutoGas.

Soon, 20 department cars will be converted. Five 2011 Chevrolet Tahoes that are on order will also be converted after delivery.

Darr announced the conversion plan in June.

The conversion will cost about $6,000 per vehicle. Force 911 of Pendergrass, Ga., is doing the work.

Funding for the conversion of the vehicles is a combination of money from the 2008 Local Option Sales Tax and a grant from the Southeast Propane AutoGas Development Program that is supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program.

The development program is under the direction of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy at James Madison University.

“We were fortunate to get in the program,” said Darr, whose department is getting more than $100,000 to pay for conversion kits.

Propane AutoGas is propane condensed to a liquid. It is a safer, less expensive fuel with fewer emissions than gasoline.

The primary advantage of the bi-fuel system over a propane only vehicle is that if the AutoGas runs low, the car can fill up with regular gas anywhere.

A law enforcement vehicle automatically switches to gasoline when the AutoGas begins to run out. Using the fuel in both tanks would allow a vehicle to travel more than 500 miles.

Alliance AutoGas, which provides the fuel, is a national clean fuel coalition founded by Blossman Gas and American Alternative Fuel. Mark Denton, the vice president of business development for Alliance AutoGas, said the propane can be a $1 per gallon cheaper than gasoline. That, he said, isn’t the only reason for using AutoGas. “It’s much cleaner,” Denton said.

He said that he’s seen cars on propane go 6,000 to 7,000 miles before needing an oil change. “You pull the dipstick out and the oil still doesn’t look dirty,” he said. “It saves wear and tear on the engine.”

It produces fewer harmful emissions. A study by TUV Product Service found a 16 percent reduction in carbon dioxide, 26 percent reduction in carbon monoxide and 35.6 percent reduction in hydrocarbons.

The AutoGas is put into the vehicle just as you would gasoline, the only difference is that the nozzle attaches securely to the vehicle. The fuel comes from spill-free dispensers and goes into a tank that is in trunk. The liquid is later vaporized under the hood.

Denton said the AutoGas tank is much safer than a regular gas tank as it is 20 times more puncture resistant. He said bullets from a .357-caliber Magnum were shot at an AutoGas tank, which is ¼inch thick carbon steel, and it was not punctured.

As for the ride, Darr said, “You can’t tell the difference.”

- Larry Gieler


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