Prior to making the transition to any alternative fuel, there are several important factors fleet owners need to consider when determining which energy source is the best option for their fleet. In addition to the emissions profile, fleet owners must consider the costs required to install refueling or recharging infrastructure, the performance of the new vehicles, and the availability of the energy source.

What are the upfront costs?

Fleet owners and operators need to identify all visible and hidden costs that go along with refueling or recharging infrastructure installations, because there are some dramatic differences between the two.

The cost to install infrastructure for 10 propane autogas vehicles with a single 1,000- to 2,000-gallon tank is up to $60,000, including as much as $36,000 for site preparation and equipment, and up to $24,000 for installation.

In comparison, the cost to set up infrastructure for 10 electric vehicles with five level 3 fast EV chargers is up to $480,000, including as much as $200,000 for site prep and equipment, and up to $280,000 for installation. Unlike propane autogas infrastructure, electric infrastructure will most likely have additional costs for items like electric sub-panels, added amperage to power multiple stations, and upgrading and replacing incoming power lines.

What additional costs might I incur?

As with any fuel alternative, there are additional costs associated with more than just the infrastructure. There’s also the refueling/recharging costs themselves. Propane autogas refueling costs are stable throughout the year, and fleet managers can secure lower prices by securing a fuel contract. Electricity costs vary throughout the day and can increase if the demand for power exceeds a station’s capabilities. In comparison, propane autogas refueling stations also have lower annual maintenance costs than similar capacity electric vehicle recharging stations.

When you factor in the cost of a new vehicle, regardless of energy source and the costs for fuel, fluids, maintenance, and repairs over the lifetime of the vehicle, propane autogas has the lowest cost of any fuel for the lifetime of the vehicle.

How far will I need to drive on a single refuel or recharge?

As for performance, an electric shuttle has a full driving range of about 120 miles on a single charge, which is fine if the fleet is planned for short runs with little variation in its use. Bear in mind that operating any electric option while the vehicle is in use can diminish the driving range. This includes heat, air conditioning, windshield wipers, and the radio. Propane autogas shuttles feature proven technology that can provide a range of more than 400 miles on a single fill.

What is the emissions profile?

Thanks to emerging propane autogas technology, propane autogas is delivering near-zero emissions for its customers. Ultra-low NOx propane engines are 90 percent cleaner than current standards mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In recent years, electric vehicles’ popularity has increased because the technology is perceived as clean and green with zero emissions. However, it is important to note that emissions may be created by the source of electric power generation or the fleet owner’s choice for required auxiliary heating options and should be included in the comparisons.

While both options exceed EPA mandated tailpipe emissions levels, there are some differences in emissions throughout the full emissions cycle of the vehicles. Propane autogas can emit up to 45 percent less particulate matter than electric vehicles from well-to-wheels.

Is the energy source currently available?

While production of electric vehicles and infrastructure is growing, the current availability of the technology is leaving some fleets in the dark. In some cases, the technology is still in the development stages. Unlike electric, propane autogas is a domestically produced, American-made fuel that is readily available. Engine vehicle technology innovation has ramped up in the last decade and is currently providing fleets with reliable performance

By keeping these costs and considerations in mind and making fact-based comparisons, fleet owners are more likely to make an informed and educated decision on the best alternative for their needs.

For an even deeper dive into the comparisons of propane autogas vs electric, read PERC’s Refueling vs. Recharging guide.