Posted: 10:00 p.m. Thursday, April 11, 2013

City converting some vehicles to propane

By Michael Cooper

Staff Writer


The city will convert 12 vehicles to propane fuel, saving about $10,000 per year and possibly leading to more vehicle conversions.

Springfield city commissioners will vote Tuesday on using $148,800 in grant money to convert 10 gasoline-powered automobiles and two diesel-powered street sweepers to propane, as well as adding a propane filling station at the city’s Service Center.

Service Director Chris Moore said the city routinely researches alternative fuels. At a conference two years ago, staff members saw a presentation about propane-powered police cruisers, and were impressed with the technology and the costs.

“After another year’s worth of research, we decided if opportunity knocked that was the way we wanted to go,” Moore said.

The department was approved for a grant through the Springfield-Clark County Transportation Coordinating Committee. The Ohio Department of Transportation will pay for about 80 percent of the project, or $119,000, while the city will cover the rest, about $29,800.

“If we get these in the fleet and see that it’s a user-friendly, cost-effective way to save money and help the environment, it’s something we definitely would start budgeting for, to do conversions down the road,” Moore said.

The cost of 12 propane conversion kits for the vehicles will cost about $99,000, while the propane filling station will cost about $50,000.

Moore said the money will be available in July, and the city would like to have everything in place in 2014. It’s still deciding which types of vehicles to convert to propane, but hopes to do a few police vehicles.

The city has more than 300 vehicles in its fleet. Moore said if the process of converting vehicles to propane is successful, he hopes to add more kits to other vehicles, especially vehicles that idle for long periods of time.

The minimum savings on fuel consumption is about $800 per automobile per year and $750 per street sweeper per year — and that’s with vehicles running at the worst level of efficiency. The city’s total savings would be approximately $9,500 per year, if not more.

“We’re hoping to see even more savings than we’ve calculated,” Moore said.

The average cost savings is $1,400 per automobile, Moore said, meaning the city would recoup the costs of the conversion kits in a little less than four years.

“The grant makes it work really well,” Moore said

As of mid-March, the cost of wholesale propane was approximately $1.01 per gallon, cheaper than both unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel.

“You can study these alternative fuels until you wear yourself out. At some point you have to find one that works best for your fleet and have enough confidence in it to try it out,” Moore said. “That’s what we’re doing. We’ve looked at this and talked to several other people who use this technology. Right now, we can’t find the problems with it.”

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