Propane Case Studies
CONNECTICUT SCHOOL DISTRICT SAVES $200,000 WITH PROPANE-AUTOGAS-POWERED
John Dufour is the president of All-Star Transportation, a family-owned school bus contractor serving Litchﬁeld, New Haven, and upper Fairﬁeld counties in Connecticut. Two years ago, Dufour acquired 51 Blue Bird Propane Vision Type C school buses to service Torrington Public Schools, which includes seven high school and middle schools in Torrington and provides services to nearly 5,000 students.
MAKING THE CASE FOR PROPANE
Torrington Public School’s transportation contractor first proposed making a switch to alternative fuels in 2012 when the district was looking to replace some of its older diesel school buses.
“We’re always looking at new products and things we can bring to the table for our customers,” said John Dufour, whose company, All-Star Transportation, maintains the propane autogas buses for Torrington. “With fuel being such a big expense for schools, any advantage we can provide that will save schools money, they’re open to it.”
All-Star Transportation proposed propane autogas as the best solution for the district because of propane’s low upfront cost and the school’s high fuel usage. According to Dufour, the district uses more than 140,000 gallons of fuel each year. With propane autogas, the school system pays less than $2.00 per gallon, compared with diesel, which costs upwards of $3.50 per gallon.
“Once we ran the numbers it was a no-brainer,” Dufour said. “We made them a deal on the buses and they signed a new seven-year contract. To date, Torrington Public Schools has saved about $200,000 in fuel costs per year, money that can now be spent on teachers, supplies, classrooms, and all of the other things they’re working on.”
Torrington Public Schools set a fixed price for propane through a fuel contract with its local propane provider, and All-Star Transportation installed the refueling infrastructure on its property.
Torrington Public Schools
CHALLENGE & SOLUTION
When All-Star Transportation, a local school bus contractor in Connecticut, proposed that Torrington Public Schools replace its older diesel buses with new propane-autogas-powered buses, the projected $200,000 annual fuel cost savings convinced the school’s board of education to vote yes.
• Startup costs with propane were significantly more affordable when compared with other alternative fuels.
• Torrington Public Schools purchases propane autogas for less than $2.00 per gallon with a private fuel contract.
• The Blue Bird Vision propane autogas buses start instantly and perform better than diesel models in Connecticut’s frigid winters.
PROPANE AUTOGAS MEETS SANDY SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT’S LONG LIST OF REQUIREMENTS
The Sandy Springs Police Department was created shortly after the city of Sandy Springs, Georgia, was incorporated in December 2005. The department took over police operations from Fulton County in the summer of 2006 and currently employs 127 sworn officers.
RESEARCHING RESILIENCY IN ALTERNATIVE FUELS
In his former role as lieutenant commander of homeland security, Captain Bart Humble ﬁrst started exploring alternative fuels after being asked to ﬁnd a domestic fuel source that the city could rely on in the case of a disaster.
“The homeland security unit works to mitigate the effects of incidents and reduce harm to the environment,” said Capt. Humble. “Protecting our land isn’t limited to disaster response, but includes considering our economic and environmental impact on a day-to-day basis.”
According to Capt. Humble, after doing the research, propane autogas quickly rose to the top of his list. “Propane autogas is clean and American-made, and was more affordable to implement than other alternative fuels — we wouldn’t have to sacriﬁce anything we were looking for out of an alt-fuel,” he said. Finding the right fuel was the easy part; the more difficult task was getting buy-in from multiple stakeholders, including city council members, the police department’s middle management and line-level supervisors, and the city’s police officers.
“In order to get the go-ahead, I really had to have my ducks in a row,” Humble said. “I completed a full cost analysis showing return on investment, and presented a strong business case for propane autogas to the city council.”
PROPANE AUTOGAS PLEASES ALL PARTIES
While the cost analysis was a strong selling point, Humble said that Sandy Springs’ city council was equally motivated by the opportunity for the police department to become a leader in the community and creating a sustainable future. The community has an established history in the preservation of natural resources, and the city works conscientiously in pursuing environmentally sound initiatives.
Sandy Springs Police Department Sandy Springs, Georgia
CHALLENGE & SOLUTION
Sandy Springs’ city council, police force, and homeland security units all wanted the police department to transition to alternative fuels for varying reasons: to reduce dependence on foreign oil, save money, and reduce environmental impacts. Propane autogas emerged as the perfect solution to meet these varying needs.
• Clean, American-made propane autogas helps the police department meet the needs of multiple entities throughout the city.
• Sandy Springs has displaced approximately 167 tons of harmful greenhouse gas emissions since 2012.
• The police department has recouped its upfront costs and saved more than $200,000 in fuel costs in just two years.
MICHIGAN-BASED DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
SEES STRONG ROI WITH BI-FUEL FLEET
Lake Michigan Mailers is a leading data, documents, and distribution company with facilities in Michigan and Indiana. The company services clientele across the U.S., Canada, and U.K. in addition to local businesses, schools, and government offices. The family-owned and operated company has provided data and document management, mail assembly, and other business support services for 35 years.
Headquartered in Kalamazoo, Mich., the company’s fleet averages about 15,000 miles per month, picking up mail and printed materials to be assembled for distribution or online storage. The fleet typically travels within a 12,600-square-foot radius each day, with service vans returning to the company’s headquarters each evening for refueling and storage.
THE ALTERNATIVE FUEL ANALYSIS
When Michigan’s gasoline prices rose 7.7 percent between September 2011 and September 2012, Lake Michigan Mailers began exploring alternative fuel options in order to reduce its reliance on gasoline.
An outside consultant was hired to analyze Lake Michigan Mailers’ fleet usage and make an alternative fuel recommendation that wouldn’t compromise vehicle performance. Electricity, compressed natural gas, ethanol, and propane autogas were compared based on ease of conversion, total-cost-of-ownership, range, and fuel price, in addition to infrastructure. Across the board, propane autogas quickly proved the best alternative fuel option for their needs.
“Not only did propane autogas fulfill all of our requirements, but the study showed it would give us the fastest return on our investment,” said David Rhoa, president of Lake Michigan Mailers. “When we saw the results, we were absolutely convinced that propane autogas was the most viable option for our needs.”
The company’s analysis also highlighted some of the challenges a small business like Lake Michigan Mailers can face when choosing an alternative fuel. With an electric vehicle, the range was limited to about a 100-mile radius, much too short for the amount of travel the company’s fleet did in a day. As for CNG, the infrastructure costs were too high for a company its size. The lack of refueling options available with E85, and the fact that gasoline stations in Michigan have drastically reduced ethanol blends, didn’t provide enough flexibility to meet their fleets’ needs.
OVERCOMING INCREASED OPERATING COSTS
Before spending the time and resources to convert the entire fleet to bi-fuel with propane autogas, Rhoa worked with Icom North America to integrate propane autogas into the existing fleet by upfitting one Ford E-150 van with Icom’s JTG II bi-fuel system. The propane liquid injection conversion system enables vehicles to run on either propane autogas or gasoline.
Lake Michigan Mailers
CHALLENGE & SOLUTION
Reduce fuel expenses while maintaining vehicle performance by adding bi-fuel capabilities to part of the company’s 30-vehicle fleet and introducing on-site propane autogas refueling.
By using propane autogas as its primary fuel, and with on-site refueling capabilities, Lake Michigan Mailers estimates that it saves about 12 cents per mile driven compared with gasoline.