Top questions answered about propane use in trucks

Todd Mouw Roush CleanTech renewable propane Headshot

How is it possible for trucks — or any type of vehicle for that matter — to run on propane as its main fuel source? Isn’t that for heating homes or powering generators? You’re not the first to ask!

Many fleet operators in industries across all sectors are interested in using propane to cut down on emissions and costs, but aren’t familiar enough with it as a vehicle fuel to commit.

Here are answers to the top six questions we’re asked about vehicles fueled by propane (also known as autogas) that will help you make the transition.

How much does it cost to purchase propane trucks for my fleet? The cost of a propane vehicle starts off the same as it would for an equivalent gasoline or diesel model. Once a business opts for propane, the commercial vehicles are then upfitted with propane fuel systems. There is a low initial incremental cost associated with the upfit, but the long-term savings of fuel and maintenance add up to higher total cost of ownership savings over the lifetime of the vehicle.

What is the difference between a propane truck and a gasoline or diesel truck? There aren’t many visible differences on the truck. For example, Roush CleanTech’s propane autogas fuel system seamlessly integrates into the vehicle. The fuel lines follow the OEM routing, and the fuel tank generally replaces the standard tank location. The system delivers propane to the engine in liquid form, ensuring zero compromise in vehicle performance. Depending on your application, you may see a propane tank on either side of the truck.

Another difference is that propane fuel systems are clean from the beginning. Due to propane’s clean composition, there are no complex and costly after-treatment systems. Propane vehicles eliminate components like diesel particulate filters, EGR coolers and the whole array of SCR parts, along with the downtime diesel failures can lead to.

Are there any performance or range differences between a propane truck and a gasoline/diesel truck?

Vehicles equipped with propane fuel systems maintain the same horsepower, torque and towing capacity as their conventionally fueled counterparts. They also have comparable range and should easily be able to cover a majority of your routes without compromising the operation. Be sure to check with the propane fuel system manufacturer for specifics.

How do I know propane trucks will make financial sense? Right from the first fueling, the savings add up. That’s because, on average, propane fuel is 40% less expensive than gasoline and about 50% less than diesel. Most fleets lock in an annual per-gallon fuel cost for propane so price and supply remains consistent, allowing for better budgeting. Then, add in savings from reduced maintenance costs and wear and tear on the engine and components. You can calculate savings using online tools, like the fleet cost calculator from the Propane Education & Research Council, to compare the money saved with propane vehicles.

Where will I service my propane trucks? That’s your choice. If you have inhouse mechanics, they can learn how to service them — specialized technicians are not required to work on propane vehicles. Your standard diagnostic equipment can be used. Or you can take them to a service center. Be sure to ask your propane fuel system manufacturer if there’s a certified service station near you. For example, ROUSH CleanTech has a service network of more than 700 locations and offers tech training.

How will I fuel a propane truck? You have options to choose from to best fit your needs. Many fleet managers elect to install low- or no-cost on-site fueling infrastructure, eliminating trips to off-site stations. Keep in mind that propane fueling infrastructure costs less than any other transportation energy source — conventional or alternative. Mobile fueling is another option, where a local propane supplier comes to your location and fills up your vehicles directly from their “bobtail” truck. Or, there are thousands of propane fueling stations in the United States, with stations in every state. Be sure to connect with a local propane marketer who can help walk you through every option. They are the experts who can help you choose the right fueling option based on fleet size, routes, budget and facility space.

Do you have any other questions about propane vehicles? Ask away!