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Building the AutoGas Market in New England

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NH dealer discusses benefits of propane as a transportation fuel

Oil & Energy speaks with Jim Proulx, of Proulx Oil & Propane, about his work with Alliance AutoGas, which is a national network that provides fueling and vehicle conversions AutoGas.

When did you join the AutoGas alliance?

Proulx was the first fueling partner to join Alliance AutoGas in early 2009.

What opportunities do you see?

I think the coming decade will see a significant increase in adoption of AutoGas (propane as a motor fuel). With gasoline prices on the rise and ever-present concerns about dependence on dirty foreign oil, more businesses and government agencies will prioritize the transition to alternative fuels. AutoGas is clean, cost-effective, American-made and more practical to implement than other alternatives on the market today for most American fleets. As our partner network Alliance AutoGas continues building momentum with public and private vehicle fleets adopting AutoGas, you’ll see increased infrastructure development and a boost in interest from mainstream consumers. There are also significant opportunities for AutoGas use in several areas of the transportation segment beyond on-road use among vehicle fleets such as agriculture, off-road applications, and in virtually any fuel-burning engine.

What sort of work are you doing with AutoGas?

As an Alliance AutoGas partner, Proulx is working with municipal and private fleets to facilitate every component of the shift to AutoGas. We provide everything from economic analysis to fueling solutions and infrastructure, to vehicle hardware including conversions and OEM vehicles.

Do you fuel fleets?

Yes, we are a seasoned propane retailer and an Alliance AutoGas fueling partner. We typically provide an onsite fueling station at no upfront cost for fleets, in addition to guaranteed ongoing AutoGas fuel supply. We are working with both municipalities and private fleets.

 

Who are the AutoGas users?

Currently Alliance AutoGas focuses on the vehicle fleet market, and demand is growing daily. Most of our fleet users have converted existing vehicles to run on AutoGas as part of the Alliance AutoGas complete program. But worldwide, more than 18 million vehicles are running on AutoGas, many of which belong to individuals.

Is there anyone doing fleet conversions in your area?

Yes, and as the Alliance partner network grows, so do the number of certified conversions centers and trained certified technicians. But we also certify in-fleet technicians to perform AutoGas conversions for those who are interested. As a result, many of the mechanics certified in the area thus far are individuals from private fleets rather than commercial conversion centers. We are currently planning the onboarding of new conversion centers in the area with a strategic approach to center location.

What are your expectations for AutoGas in this area?

There are significant growth opportunities for AutoGas in every part of the country. New England, like so many regions, is economically challenged to reduce fuel costs per mile for many fleet applications – from private entities to municipal groups.

 

Do you fuel any of your vehicles with propane AutoGas?

Yes. My personal vehicle is a Ford F150 with the PRINS converted 5.4L Triton engine. I have over 90,000 miles of practical experience with that vehicle operating in every kind of geographic region, operating environment, topography, and traffic type situation over the past 36 months. My experience includes towing, highway, city, hilly, cold, hot, and anything else you could imagine, including a 2,300-mile college tour from NH to South Carolina and back, with all but 75 miles operating solely on propane AutoGas. In addition, we are ordering two replacement service vehicles that operate with a service body and lift gate carrying 420# tanks and below; they will be factory-equipped with gasoline engines and converted to the Alliance PRINS operating system upon delivery.

How much of a price advantage is there now on propane?

For light- and medium-duty U.S. fleets, savings with AutoGas currently average around $1.50 per gallon compared to gasoline, and Alliance AutoGas conversion financing options allow fleets to start experiencing fuel cost savings right away. Currently the apples-to-apples advantage comparison for a propane company operating within their own fleet could approach $1.60 per gallon in fuel cost savings, when compared to diesel. Should the previous alternative fuel tax credit be extended by congress that number swells to over $2.00 per gallon.

Are you seeing opportunity in the present or near future or thinking of the long haul?

We see opportunities for propane AutoGas across all of these timetables. Historically propane has held a strong price benefit compared to gasoline, and the cost of implementation for AutoGas is much lower than that for other alternative fuels. So, the economics of AutoGas are viable right here and right now. And if we are serious about holding the environment in high regard and believe in the stewardship of the air we all breathe, then propane provides a solution right now as a cleaner and greener alternative to gasoline as well. AutoGas vehicles reduce harmful emissions by more than 20% compared to gasoline vehicles, and 98% of our nation’s AutoGas is made right here in the U.S. The benefits of using AutoGas truly extend far beyond the positive economics, and AutoGas provides an immediate means to begin alleviating many of our country’s pressing transportation energy challenges.

 

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