Part 2 Q&A with Roush CleanTech: propane vs. other alt fuels & VW settlement funds

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Roush CleanTech’s propane conversion system is now available for the F-750.
Roush CleanTech’s propane conversion system is now available for the F-750.

In Part 2 of our interview with Roush CleanTech President Todd Mouw we learn more about the differences between propane and other other alternative fuels. Plus, Mouw offers insights into what fleets can expect with the distribution of VW settlement funds.

In Part 1, Mouw talked about his company’s latest propane engine, a 6.7-liter engine with a near-zero emissions .02 grams per brake horsepower-hour (g/bhp-hr) rating from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Mouw revealed how Roush is on the verge of revealing the first biopropane fleet engine and he also talked about alt fuel certification in California.

HWT: What are the primary differences between a propane fuel supply and CNG?

Mouw: Ultimately, propane’s a low pressure fuel, liquid. It’s a couple hundred pounds of pressure in its liquid state versus 3600 pounds for compressed natural gas. Because of that, our fueling infrastructure is typically less expensive than traditional fuels like gasoline or diesel and in most cases the propane companies—because it’s so cost effective to put in place—will put it in place for little to no charge in exchange for a fuel contract.

We get a lot of questions: Is it the same as natural gas? What are the differences? And we love natural gas, too, but when it comes to infrastructure as well as shop upgrades most fleets are not required to make any shop upgrades to deal with propane where there is significant cash outlay for upgrading a shop to work on natural gas vehicles. So, those are a couple of big advantages that we’ve seen, especially in the lighter Class 4 to 7 space that may not burn the number of miles to justify the infrastructure or shop upgrades, propane is a great choice especially now with our low NOx option.

HWT: Is your near-zero (.02 grams per brake horsepower-hour) propane engine already in the field?


Mouw: It is. We actually were certified towards the end of July. We actually have some units now with the low NOx engine and ultimately it’s the same calibration—very similar calibration to .05. The major difference is that we use a unique catalyst with some different precious metal loading that helps us get down from .05 to .02 so that’s really the major difference. That’s something we’re now really excited about because again from a customer perspective, we’re not adding a bunch of complexity to their vehicle. We’re basically plug and play, different catalysts in a calibration and the customer is at .02 grams per brake horsepower-hour. So, it’s pretty exciting. And the incremental cost is really very cost effective compared to some of the other options that are in the market place. So typically it’s a $3,500 max (per unit) incremental cost to get to .02 for a fleet with our technology.

HWT: VW settlement funds will obviously allow fleets to purchase more alternative fuel vehicles. What can fleets expect regarding the process of funds distribution?

Mouw: Their ultimate score card will be the cost effectiveness in how they spend these dollars related to NOx reduction. So, when you look at Class 4 to 7, it’s hard to beat our cost-effectiveness of NOx reduction—whether it’s .05 or .02. Again, I think it helps to keep propane front and center, not only with our fleets, but also with those regulators that are making those decisions about where to spend those dollars. So, when we talk about how cost effective it is to reduce NOx with a propane school bus versus an electric school bus, it’s a huge difference. You’re talking about hundreds of dollars per pound of NOx reduced cheaper with propane than it is with electric. Again, and that’s how they’re being scored—how wisely they’re spending those dollars relative to NOx reduction. That’s another we did it because we knew that would help our fleet partners and school districts get to the front of the line related to potential funding, so that was another intended benefit of getting the (.02 g/bhp-hr) certification.

HWT: Does propane undercut fuel infrastructure costs of CNG and electric?

Yes. Again, we love natural gas. We offer that product. If you were to look at propane versus natural gas versus clean diesel or electric, propane wins hands down far and away against any of those products. Who we’re typically competing against is really clean diesel who in some states does qualify—the VW settlement does say that clean diesel does qualify. Some states are saying that it has to be propane, natural gas or electric. That’s who our big competitor is—diesel. So, when you look at—and we’ve created a one-pager for those beneficiaries in each of those states and for our customers and partners—it basically rates that cost effectiveness per pound of NOx reduced across those different platforms. We’re using the NREL A-fleet model in regards to methodology. A government third party. We’re using their data on how to calculate this. Again, I think there is a place for all of them. When it comes to rubber hitting the road and making the most impact from a NOx reduction perspective, with our .02 engine it’s pretty hard to beat. So, again if people have an open mind, there’s that EV craze that’s out there again. Everything has to be EV—and again—we think there’s a place for EV, but when you talk about some of these lower mileage applications—to be honest with you, any mileage with EV—it’s pretty hard to justify incremental cost rate. We think there’s seed dollars that ought to go there and develop that supply chain and technology and bring that battery cost down so that five or seven years from now, we have a viable solution without subsidy, but ultimately, if you’ve got to get scored on how much NOx you reduce, your dollars will go farther with propane.