It is a little hard to believe, but propane is giving natural gas, hydrogen-electric fuel cells, and electric cars with lithium batteries a run for its money as a vehicle fuel. Like compressed natural gas (or CNG), propane is a low-emission fuel that is cheaper than gasoline and diesel fuel.
Propane has a huge advantage over hydrogen fuel cells and CNG as a vehicle fuel that a lot of people don’t realize. The infrastructure needed to get it to customers already exists. The dealers who refill your barbecue tank and the big white tank behind your cousin’s house in the boondocks can also refill propane-powered vehicles.
That’s a huge savings for vehicle fleet operators; when the Cleveland Public Schools decided to switch to alternative fuel buses, they went with propane. The head of the city’s school bus program told Reuters that he rejected CNG as a fuel source because the schools would have had to install a $1 million natural gas filling station for buses. Propane could be utilized without such a filling station.
Another huge advantage to propane is that it is fairly easy to find. There’s a propane dealership in almost every town in America. The small Colorado town where the Samurai’s parents live has three of them. That means it is fairly easy to fill your tank with propane when you’re out in the boondocks.
The Altfuelprices website found 13 CNG filling stations in Denver, but none in rural areas of Colorado. That’s why UPS trucks in small towns in Colorado burn diesel fuel, but UPS trucks in Denver run on natural gas.
The interesting thing is that propane-powered cars are not sold in the U.S., although you can find some propane conversion kits at Gotpropane.com and similar websites. Most diesel engines and some gasoline burners with carburetors can easily be converted to run on propane. Natural gas burning cars like the Honda Civic Natural Gas could also be easily converted to propane.
Propane is Cheap, But Not as Cheap as Natural Gas
The big reason to convert to propane is that it costs around $2.43 a gallon, while diesel fuel costs around $3.74 a gallon. You will save more money by switching to propane, but not as much by switching to natural gas, which costs around $1.80 a gallon, according to Reuters.
Natural gas and electricity do have one advantage over propane. You can refill natural gas tanks and recharge electric cars at home without going to the filling station, although you could easily rig one of the propane tanks used for furnaces, and water heaters could easily be rigged to fuel a vehicle.
It looks like various kinds of gases could become the fuels of choice in the near future. Gasoline’s days as America’s favorite fuel appear to be numbered.