January 2010, Business Fleet - Feature
Propane Provides a Competitive Edge
"That creates a little work for our accountant," he says. "He's working on how to split the expenses. I don't necessarily want to lead the fight to extend the tax credit to lawn equipment, but they did see the need to extend it to forklifts. It's possible that our equipment also could eventually qualify."
There are two ways to obtain a single propane-fueled F-350 from Roush. A new truck can be ordered through the Ford dealership or lease management company with Roush's ship-through code. For an existing truck, Roush can send a conversion kit to a local dealer, where it will be installed with support from the company. To retrofit an entire fleet that operates in multiple locations, Roush works with fleet managers to determine where their "SWAT" teams should be sent to support the conversions.
Even as he enjoys the cost savings, Hansen is equally proud of his company's shrinking carbon footprint.
"With 60 percent less emissions, we're also reducing our total annual output of CO2," he says. "We currently use about 35,000 gallons per year of unleaded gasoline and diesel. In 2009 we were able to use 1,500 gallons of that as propane. For 2010, our goal is to use between 5,000 and 10,000 gallons of propane and cut our usage of unleaded and diesel fuel to 25,000‑30,000 gallons. The heavy initial cost should pay for itself over the course of the next few years."
The propane-powered F-350 and equipment display a prominent "Green Propane Power" logo. Han-sen believes that branding will help attract environmentally aware clients.
"Larger companies are getting into the green initiatives," he says. "They're going to their plant managers and looking for lists of ways to cut emissions. When I meet a prospective client, I'll say, 'Every time we service your property, we're creating 60 percent less carbon output. Does that matter to you?' For smaller companies, the answer may be 'Not really.' For larger companies, it will likely be 'Yes.'"
Spreading the Word
Hansen's efforts have already brought in phone calls and e-mails from other business owners across the country. Most of them want to know about the maintenance and tax-credit aspects of switching to propane.
"I tell them we know how to maintain the equipment, but not the trucks - yet," he says. "As for the tax credits, we know the implications at the state and municipal level, but of course those will vary from place to place."
The purchase of the propane-fueled pickup earned Competitive a one-time credit of $4,500 from the State of Illinois. Hansen hopes to pick up a few more in 2010 by retrofitting some of his existing fleet trucks. "We'll do two or three more this year," he says. "There's also a federal credit of $5,000, so if we apply for both, the conversion cost is a wash."
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