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Newport News Converts Vehicles to Run on Propane

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With gasoline prices nearing $4 per gallon, the city of Newport News says it expects to save $22,000 per year after converting a fleet of its vehicles to use propane gas.

The city recently converted 22 cars and trucks to use “autogas,” the trade name for propane used in vehicles. Cars from the city’s police department – 12 Ford Crown Victorias – and 10 Chevrolet Silverado trucks were converted.

The conversion was the result of a grant from the Southeast Propane Autogas Development Program, which aims to convert more than 1,200 vehicles to autogas and build 35 autogas stations over the next four years in the southeast and Pennsylvania.

Baker Equipment perfomed the conversion using equipment from Alliance Autogas of Asheville, N.C., and Philips Gas of Richmond installed the tanks. In return, Phillips received a one-year contract from the city to provide the propane to fuel the vehicles and build a 1,000-gallon autogas refilling station on city of Newport News property.

In December, Tidewater Import Car Service in Virginia Beach became one of the first Hampton Roads car dealerships to offer conversion.

It costs about $6,000 to convert a car to propane, and car manufacturers have been reluctant to produce propane-powered cars because it costs thousands of dollars more to make them compared to gasoline-fueled cars.

However, Phillips said, with the rising cost of gas, vehicle manufacturers are starting to look more closely at propane-fueled vehicles, although many are also concentrating on natural-gas-powered cars.

The city of Newport News plans to use about 18,000 gallons of autogas each year on its fleet.

Propane burns cleaner and helps save on maintenance and repair costs. Moreover, propane releases “significantly lower” carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbon and greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Department of Energy. About 90 percent of propane used in the U.S. is produced here, advocates say, and converting vehicles to autogas reduces the country’s foreign oil dependence.

By Bill Cresenzo

Source: Inside Business