Pennsylvania propane company offers autogas conversions

A local businessman is hoping to literally take his propane company's business on the road by offering gasoline-to-propane vehicle conversions.

Jeffrey Shaffer, manager of Shaffer's Bottled Gas in Hooversville, said the family-owned-and-operated business is ready to take on customers.

"We're currently evaluating several businesses that are considering propane as an alternative for their vehicles," he said. "This is something we're very excited about."

"We think that (converting) offers a lot of advantages. It's cheaper, cleaner and we see it as a way to lessen our dependence on gasoline and foreign oil," he said.

Propane vehicles — or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG's) as they're called in the industry — get approximately 90 percent of the mileage gasoline-powered vehicles do while remaining substantially cheaper, Shaffer said.

According to Propane Prices, an online compilation of current and past gas prices throughout the nation, residential propane is currently $2.87 per gallon in the state. The average wholesale propane price per gallon in $1.24 in Pennsylvania.

According to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, a gallon of regular gasoline costs $3.83, up from $3.54 a year ago.

"You can see that gas is climbing toward four dollars a gallon," Shaffer said. "Propane, we think, offers an affordable alternative."

Shaffer said that bus companies and other businesses with vehicle fleets are early targets for conversion. Shaffer's Bottled Gas has a partner company lined up to perform conversions and can install fleet fuel depots themselves.

Making the switch from gasoline to propane requires that a pressurized gas tank system be installed to complement or replace the unpressurized gasoline system.

There are a number of certified vehicle tank systems on the market that meet federal safety standards for use on public roadways, Shaffer said.

He estimated the conversion cost to run between $5,000 and $7,000 per vehicle. Installing the kit takes a few days and the entire process from making the decision to converting a small fleet could take as little as 60 days, he said.

Fueling the vehicles is similar to filling up at a gas station, he said. The caps and hose system are very much alike despite the pressurization.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, propane engines make for cleaner emissions from vehicles.

Their online section about alternative fuels estimates those vehicles emit 10 to 15 percent less carbon dioxide, 20 percent less carbon monoxide and 50 to 60 percent less hydrocarbons than gasoline-powered engines.

Nationally, there has been a recent flurry of announcements regarding municipalities, fleet operators and other companies like lawn-care specialists converting to propane power.

A lawn care specialist in Ocean Springs, Miss., converted his fleet of lawn mowers to propane in February, citing cost savings, according to television station WLOX.

Earlier this month Fort Myers, Fla.-based SWFL Transportation Group Inc. converted 40 of their 100-taxi fleet to run on gasoline and propane, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.

Shaffer hopes to make a similar announcement regarding a similar move, soon.

"We're really ready to take the next step with this," he said.

SOURCE Daily American

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