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Propane Vehicle Basics

August 20, 2013 - 9:16am

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There are more than 147,000 on-road propane vehicles in the United States. Many are used in fleets, including light- and heavy-duty trucks, buses, taxicabs, police cars, and rental and delivery vehicles. Compared with vehicles fueled with conventional diesel and gasoline, propane vehicles can produce fewer harmful emissions.

The availability of new light- and medium-duty propane vehicles has surged in recent years, especially for fleet use. Certified installers can economically and reliably retrofit many vehicles for propane operation. Propane engines and fueling systems are also available for heavy-duty vehicles such as school buses and street sweepers.

Propane is also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or autogas. There are two types of propane vehicles: dedicated and bi-fuel. Dedicated propane vehicles are designed to run only on propane, while bi-fuel propane vehicles have two separate fueling systems that enable the vehicle to use either propane or gasoline.

A propane vehicle's power, acceleration, and cruising speed are similar to those of conventionally fueled vehicles. The driving range for dedicated and bi-fuel vehicles is also comparable. Extra storage tanks can increase range, but the tank size and additional weight affect payload capacity.

Low maintenance costs are one reason behind propane's popularity for use in light-duty vehicles, such as pickup trucks and taxis, and for heavy-duty vehicles, such as school buses. Propane's high octane rating and low carbon and oil contamination characteristics have resulted in documented engine life of up to two times that of gasoline engines.

Visit the Alternative Fuels Data Center to learn more about propane vehicles.

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