It’s easy to see why electric vehicles are perceived to be the future of automotive technology. They’re better for the environment and require less maintenance, which can save money for fleet owners. But they aren’t the only progressive fuel option available with those benefits.
Propane autogas is one of the most popular automotive fuels in the world, with more than 27 million vehicles on the road across the globe.
When comparing propane to electric, fleets should examine factors around emissions, economics, and fueling.
Electric vehicles are known to eliminate tailpipe emissions. Although electric vehicles don’t produce emissions from the tailpipe, there are lifecycle emissions connected to fuel and battery production and disposal.
Propane vehicles reduce smog-producing emissions, eliminate particulate matter, and substantially lower nitrogen oxides (NOx). NOx emissions are federally regulated due to their negative impact on human health and the environment. According to the EPA, they can trigger health problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory issues.
Recent research from the West Virginia University’s Center of Alternative Fuels, Engines, and Emissions showed that NOx is reduced by 95% with propane compared with diesel.
Roush CleanTech developed the first propane autogas engine certified to California Air Resources Board’s optional lowest oxides of nitrogen emissions standard for heavy-duty engines (0.02 grams per brake horsepower-hour). The engine is 90% cleaner than the strictest EPA standard and is the cleanest of all class 4-7 engines available.
When it comes to cost, propane has positive economics. Over the past 30 years, the fuel has cost about 50% less than diesel and up to 40% less than gasoline. Rates for electricity can change depending on the weather.
Just like electric vehicles, propane vehicles save on maintenance since they don’t require costly and complex after treatment systems.
Plus, propane fleet vehicles cost three to four times less than electric. Fleets can transition to propane without incentives but will further their savings when funding is available.
Fueling for propane autogas takes minutes. Recharging EVs take hours. Class 4-7 propane autogas vehicles can reach a range of up to 350 miles on a single fueling. EVs ready to deploy in the commercial market have a range of about 100 miles today.
Propane autogas has an established fueling infrastructure across the nation. Additionally, propane providers will install a propane station at low or even zero cost with a fuel contract.
Outside of routine station maintenance, there aren’t additional costs after installation. For electric vehicles, there may be additional costs for charging stations to meet power requirements and use a management software.
Bottom line? Both electric and propane vehicles are leaders in the alternative fuel space, replacing diesel emissions and improving human health and air quality.
Electric growth and innovation will continue in the future, but today, propane autogas’ advantages are its “shovel-ready” availability and its ability to stand on its own with limited or no subsidy. And with the 0.02g NOx engine, its vehicles are near-zero emissions.
About the Author
Todd Mouw is president of Roush CleanTech, an industry provider of alternative fuel vehicle technology. Mouw has more than two decades of experience in the automotive and high-tech industries. He is former president of the NTEA Green Truck Association.