Propane Autogas: A Proven Track Record for DeKalb County

 

Company: DeKalb County
Industry: County Government
Location: Decatur, Georgia
Vehicles: 
  • 2008 Ford F-150 trucks (75)
Fueling:  Four 1,000-gallon and two 2,000-gallon on-site fueling stations located across the county
Challenge: To cut rising fuel costs while finding new technology that allows for continued use of the county fleet's alternative fuel choice - propane autogas.
By The Numbers*:
  • $1.50 per gallon cost savings for propane autogas, with 50-cent-per-gallon tax credit included.*
  • More than $135,000 in fuel savings over two years. 
  • 4,250 pounds of carbon dioxide per vehicle, per year eliminated from DeKalb County's carbon footprint.
  • 340,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year eliminated from DeKalb County's total carbon footprint for entire fleet.

* = Current federal legislation offers a $.50 per gallon alternative fuel tax credit to propane autogas users until 2014.

Georgia’s DeKalb County, a hub of activity boasting a population of 700,000 near Atlanta, is the third most populated county in the state. As the home to thousands of acres of wetlands, forests and streams, DeKalb County officials have been committed to reducing the carbon footprint of their fleet vehicles. In 2009 the Atlanta Regional Commission recognized DeKalb County with a “Green Communities” designation for their efforts in conserving energy, water, and fuel, reducing waste, and protecting and restoring natural resources.

Propane Performed Immediately

To cut rising fuel costs, DeKalb County integrated 200 propane autogas sedans and pickup trucks into their fleet in 1998. “The propane performed immediately,” says Richard Miller, superintendent of DeKalb County’s fleet management automotive garage. “The county saw savings right away in both costs and environmental integrity.”

Historically, propane autogas costs have been 30 to 40 percent less than gasoline. Government statistics project this cost savings on propane to continue for the next 25 years.

In the 1990’s, DeKalb’s propane autogas vehicles used both propane and gasoline in a bi-fuel engine. Today, DeKalb County is operating 75 ROUSH CleanTech Ford F-150 pick-up trucks, each fueled with a dedicated liquid propane autogas system.

“The ROUSH brand has a reputation for dependability and quality, so we chose to work with them when acquiring new trucks,” says Miller. “They offered a fair price, and we have been pleased with the ROUSH CleanTech product.”

Propane Autogas Delivers Performance

Today, DeKalb County has 93 light-duty vehicles and 11 pieces of off-road equipment powered by propane autogas. The ROUSH CleanTech trucks feature an in-bed tank system, chosen by the county to deliver maximum vehicle range. Driven about 8,700 miles annually, the vehicles are used for code enforcement, revenue collection and as courtesy vehicles for department supervisors and superintendents.

Regardless of the job, Miller says these propane autogas trucks experience similar miles per gallon and excellent drivability, all while reducing the county’s dependence on foreign energy and saving taxpayer dollars with lower fuel and maintenance costs. And the drivers have expressed appreciation for the trucks’ horsepower and acceleration.

DeKalb County’s usage of safe and non-toxic propane autogas to power their on-road fleet is reducing their carbon footprint by 340,000 pounds of carbon each year, and eliminating more than 100,000 gallons of foreign oil from the supply chain.

The decision is still paying off, with reported fuel savings of approximately $73,000 in 2009 and $64,000 in 2010. “At its highest, gasoline cost us $2.63 per gallon, while our propane autogas cost was $1.89 during the same period,” says Miller, his figures based on the county’s bulk fuel rate.

Over the years, the federal government and many states have offered various programs and tax incentives to encourage the use of alternative fuels.

Stations Installed On-Site

With a large number of their fleet vehicles using propane autogas, it was a natural decision to install on-site refueling infrastructure to handle the volume of fuel used. “We have six refueling sites. Four have 1,000-gallon tank capabilities and two have a 2,000-gallon tank capacity,” says Miller. “These were put in immediately after acquiring the first propane autogas vehicles back in 1998, and were constructed to offset fuel costs.”

County officials worked with their local Clean Cities Coalition to secure grant funding during the installation process. The sites were chosen to coincide with existing county fuel sites and to offer easy access for county employees. The refueling sites, used exclusively by DeKalb County, are supplied by Blossman Gas and Ferrellgas.

DeKalb County has found that the ease of use and rate of fill of these stations is comparable to gasoline and diesel fuel pumps, making the transition from pumping one fuel to the next easy on their drivers. If drivers get in a pinch to refuel, they can also access any one of the thousands of public propane autogas stations across the U.S.

Service Makes Ownership Simple

DeKalb County purchased their propane autogas fleet vehicles from Allan Vigil Ford. Located in Morrow, Ga., Allan Vigil’s service team also handles all maintenance of the county’s ROUSH CleanTech vehicles. 

“Partnerships with Ford dealerships across the nation make ROUSH CleanTech Ford trucks and vans easy to purchase and easy to maintain,” explains Tom Markham, field service engineer for ROUSH CleanTech. “We deliver the same factory Ford performance characteristics and serviceability and the same OEM warranty as their gasoline counterparts.”

According to Markham, once a fleet is ready to commit to purchasing, ROUSH CleanTech’s team steps in immediately to establish communication with the local Ford dealership of preference, evaluate the service department of the dealership of choice, and begin to train service technicians.

“We have a comprehensive service training program that gives service technicians an overview of the propane autogas system, a basic understanding of what propane autogas is and why it is beneficial as an alternative fuel, and experience working through various diagnostic scenarios,” explains Markham.  “Our goal is to give them a formidable background on keeping these trucks and vans running at peak performance, but also reassure them that our ROUSH CleanTech team is only a phone call away if they have a question or problem.” 

Chuck Sampson, Allan Vigil’s corporate sales associate, agrees. “ROUSH CleanTech’s products are economically smart and performance driven, without giving up the creature comforts drivers love,” he says.

Plans for the Future

According to Miller, plans are already in the works for additional trucks to be integrated into DeKalb County’s fleet.

“DeKalb County is a wonderful example of how public and private partnerships can work together to create a better tomorrow for everyone,” says Joe Thompson, president of ROUSH CleanTech. “I encourage other fleet managers to talk to their peers who have made the switch to propane autogas — for the good of our local communities, our country and our future.”

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