Monroe County, N.Y., has been a leader in using alternative fuels in county fleets since 1978. Fleet managers use ethanol blends, natural gas, biodiesel, and propane autogas across the county’s nearly 800-vehicle fleet. A federal grant prompted the county to add propane autogas Ford work trucks and E-series vans in 2008.

A green-green solution

The county estimates that it saves 50 percent on fuel costs with propane autogas when compared with gasoline, and the vehicles emit 60 percent fewer carbon monoxide emissions and 25 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Melvin Rose, fleet manager at Monroe County, hopes to set an example for other local governments looking to reduce fuel spend and dependency on foreign oil.

“When you go with an alternative fuel, there’s always a cost involved,” Rose says. “But with propane autogas, you get a cleaner and greener fleet, and get lower cost per mile. It just makes sense.”

Heavy-duty tasks for vehicles

The county uses its propane-autogas-fueled fleet on a variety of high-mileage, high-demand operations. The county’s converted Ford F-350 pickup truck, two Ford F-250 trucks, and E- 350 van put on as many as 15,000 miles a year. They pull heavy trailers and equipment, respond to heating and air conditioning calls, and plow snow in the winter. One of the propane-autogas-fueled vehicles is used for field checks at the airport 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“We don’t treat the vehicle with any special handling because it’s fueled with propane autogas,” Rose explains. “I want these vehicles to see severe treatment and really test them. You have to truly run these vehicles hard to get your data and see if this is going to be a proven fuel.”

More vehicle conversions

The county has experienced limited downtime with the propane autogas vehicles and has since purchased and converted a total of 16 E-350 Econoline vans and Ford F-250 pickup trucks through another grant.

Compared with other alternative fuels in the county fleet, Rose reports that propane autogas has been the simplest and easiest to implement. For the price of installing just one compressed natural gas (CNG) station, a fleet manager can install up to 15 propane autogas refueling stations. The photo at the right shows some of Monroe County's propane autogas refueling infrastructure.

“[Implementing] the infrastructure with propane autogas was simpler and more cost effective,” says Rose. “It’s amazing how inexpensive it is to get up and running with propane autogas.”

The county has also seen savings with propane autogas on routine maintenance and upkeep. Despite extremely cold temperatures in upstate New York and an average of 125 inches of snow each year, the propane-fueled vehicles perform in cold weather without extra maintenance and minimal downtime.

Visit the Propane Education & Research Council site to learn more about propane autogas.

This video offers an overview of the benefits that propane autogas delivers to fleets.
 

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