Coweta to test propane vehicles

It is something used by an increasing number of local governments as a way of offsetting high fuel prices. And in Coweta County, what essentially amounts to a demonstration project in will determine the cost-savings of transitioning 10 county vehicles to a fuel system that uses propane as an alternative to gas.

The idea for conducting the project to assess the efficiency of using propane stems from the continuing high cost of gasoline compared to the cost of propane that runs approximately $1 per gallon. The idea to switch to a fuel system that can run both gasoline and propane in county vehicles were proposed by Coweta County Commission Chairman Bob Blackburn at the Feb. 19 as a way to cut down on the high cost of gasoline.

County Manager Theron Gay at the conclusion of the meeting said there is $75,000 budgeted for the first phase of the project that amounts to a demonstration project to determine the efficiency of the alternative fuel system. The cost to outfit the 10 vehicles is approximately $5,700 per vehicle with the fueling site to be located on Corinth Road, Gay said.

Referencing the process to determine if the propane system will be viable for long-term, Gay said a Request for Proposal (RFP) will be approved by the commission as early as next month. If a suitable bid is awarded the next step will be to outfit 10 county vehicles with the propane system. The program will be operated for several months to determine is the project is something the county would like to continue and expand. If so, commissioners could allocate additional funds in next year’s budget, Gay said.

The 10 county vehicles to be outfitted with the propane/gasoline system will come from the sheriff’s office, fire department and public works departments.

Commenting on remarks made earlier in the meeting by Alliance AutoGas representative Derek Whaley, Gay said the cost-effectiveness of the propane system should be easily realized since the county tends to run its vehicles for extended periods rather than replacing them and because the propane units are transferrable to other vehicles.

Another advantage of propane is that it reduces carbon monoxide by 98 percent, Whaley said.
Whaley in his presentation said increasing numbers of city and county governments are converting to the propane/gasoline system as a way of reducing expenditures.

Pertaining to safety, Whaley said the propane system that is connected to the gasoline system already present in the vehicles meets federal safety standards, adding that the system is designed to shut down if a drop in pressure or a leak is detected.

Whaley said the high cost of gasoline has resulted in approximately 200,000 local government vehicles in the U.S. having been converted to propane.

“It’s more of a European technology that coming to the U.S.,” Whaley said, adding that Europe, parts of the Middle East and Asia are using propane to fuel passenger vehicles, while the Blue Bird bus maker is coming out with a propane line.
Referred to as autogas outside the United States, there are expected to be 23 million vehicles operating on the fuel by 2020, according to Pike Research.

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