(Photo: Alliance AutoGas PFDI conversion systems for the 2018 Ford F-150.)

 

By Michael Taylor, PERC

 

Ask any commercial vehicle fleet operator and there’s a good chance he or she will tell you their fleet is constantly faced with increasing pressure at every turn to meet or exceed ever-lowering emissions standards. It’s a growing issue for commercial fleets and many of the solutions can be expensive. Fortunately, propane autogas helps fleets reduce emissions at a cost that is affordable to them, unlike other alternative fuels like natural gas and electric.

In fact, propane autogas offers the lowest total cost-of-ownership of any fuel — traditional or alternative. That’s because in addition to lower fuel costs and reduced maintenance, propane autogas fleets have a variety of refueling options from which to choose. This allows fleets to choose a refueling strategy that is custom tailored to meet their budget and operational needs.

The following are the five most common refueling strategies for propane autogas fleets.

 

Standard Private Station

A standard private station can meet the needs of fleets operating with fewer than 50 vehicles and who want the convenience of an on-site refueling option. Propane retailers can assist fleet owners in choosing the centralized fueling location. The station includes a 1,000- to 3,000-gallon tank, and a single autogas fuel dispenser with a quick-connect nozzle that securely locks into place during refueling to eliminate spills and evaporative emissions. These lightweight nozzles allow users to refuel with one hand and do not require any extra protective equipment.

When talking with fleet operators about this refueling option, propane retailers should discuss the different ownership options: purchasing or leasing. If the fleet owner decides to lease the infrastructure, the propane or infrastructure provider will work with the fleet on building the proper setup. The fleet owner will cover the cost of the site preparation, which includes installing crash protection and an electrical supply. Depending on the site and size of the fleet, the cost for a leased setup is $1,500-$15,000. If the fleet owner chooses to purchase the infrastructure, they will own the fuel storage tanks, pump, motor, and dispenser. The average cost of ownership is $20,000-$60,000 for infrastructure, as well as the $1,500-$15,000 cost for site preparation.

 

Advanced Private Station

While similar to a standard private station, the advanced private station offers a larger capacity and fully customizable infrastructure for fleets operating with more than 50 vehicles. The advanced private station allows for owners to choose a convenient, centralized location for all of their refueling needs. The site includes one or more high-capacity fuel storage tanks and multiple dispensers with quick-connect nozzles. It may also include an optional canopy for protection from inclement weather. As the fleet grows, the infrastructure can add more dispensers and propane autogas fuel storage tanks, making this option fully customizable for any fleet.

Just like standard private stations, fleet owners can choose to purchase or lease the infrastructure of an advanced private station. Fleet owners who choose to lease are responsible for the site preparation, which would cost an average of $5,000-$75,000. Fleet owners who choose to purchase their infrastructure pay for the propane fuel storage tanks, pump, motor, and dispensers equipped with a fuel data management system which may include card lock and vehicle tracking capabilities. This setup costs $5,000-$75,000 for site preparations and $60,000-$225,000 for infrastructure.

 

Mobile Refueling

Many fleets may want to take advantage of propane autogas, but are uncertain about investing in infrastructure, don’t have the space to build infrastructure, or state or local laws, regulations, or codes prohibit installation of infrastructure. When talking to those fleets, propane retailers can suggest mobile refueling as a convenient solution.

The propane retailer will refuel a fleet’s vehicles on-site using a propane autogas bobtail truck. Propane marketers can work with fleet owners to develop a scheduled time for refueling that works around their demanding schedules.

 

Temporary Refueling Network

Some fleets may be in the process of installing permanent infrastructure and need to deploy vehicles prior to completion of the installation. Propane autogas has a solution for this fleet also. Some propane retailers can provide a temporary refueling solution complete with a fuel storage tank and dispenser mounted on a trailer. This scenario works for both short term or extended use. Filling the tank is scheduled with the propane retailer, but like mobile refueling, costs and situations will vary. This is also a viable solution for fleets, such as construction vehicles, that require refueling while working for long periods on sites located away from the centralized refueling station.

 

Public Refueling Networks

For fleets that service a wide area or have limited space for refueling, investing in infrastructure may not be feasible. In this case, utilizing a public refueling network can keep fleets on the go no matter where they are in their service area. Public refueling networks provide 24/7 security and convenience. Using a card lock system, the network tracks fuel use and costs per vehicle along a fleet’s route. This option works for fleets of any size. A complete list of public refueling stations is available from the U.S. Alternative Fuels Data Center at afdc.energy.gov/stations.

With these talking points, a propane retailer can easily help a fleet find success with propane autogas. Be sure to take into account the fleet size, potential growth, available space, routes, and refueling requirements in order to develop the right refueling solution. Propane retailers can also talk with fleets about establishing a fuel contract, securing a fleet’s business year-round. To learn more about propane autogas refueling strategies and for more talking points, visit www.propane.com/on-road-fleets/refueling/.

 

Michael Taylor is the director of autogas business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at michael.taylor@propane.com.