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Between 2015 and 2020, the Propane Education and Research Council studied an interesting question: What is the financial outcome when a propane autogas vehicle and diesel vehicle — nearly identical in every way except for fuel — are tracked for cost-of-ownership over their life cycles?

The Test Bench

To make an objective evaluation, four Ford F-550 trucks similarly equipped in almost every way were compared. Two of the F-550s operated on propane autogas, two operated on diesel. All four models were equipped with the same body, the same affixed payload, and were within just one-model year of each other.

The Methodology

Data collected in the 5-year testing timeframe:

  1. The amount of fuel the vehicles consumed
  2. The number of miles traveled
  3. The preventative maintenance and repairs of the engines and fuel systems in order to factor maintenance costs into the equation.

The Performance Results

After 5 years of tracking, the results were unequivocal. Across the board, the propane autogas trucks delivered bottom-line results the diesel engines couldn’t match.

Cost Averages – Propane vs. Diesel

Fuel Maintenance Cost/Mile Fuel Cost/Mile Total Cost/Mile
Propane Autogas $0.06 $0.18 $0.24
Diesel $0.24 $0.28 $0.53

 

These numbers validate the savings fleets can achieve by choosing propane autogas.

The Enviornmental Bonus

Performance metrics provide a gold standard for fleet managers as they assess the return-on-investment of their purchase decisions. Today, a green standard –– environmental protection –– is just as important. It changes the game when it comes to assessing ROI, but it doesn’t change the results of this head-to-head comparison. Propane wins by an even larger margin. Here are just a few of the stats:

Environmental Attributes – Propane vs. Diesel

Attribute Propane Diesel
Carbon Intensity1 83 101
Pounds of CO2 emitted per million BTUs of energy2 139.1 161.3
NOx Emissions3 96% less than diesel
Habitat Safety Vaporizes if released Spills if released
Emission Health Effects Negligible Carcinogenic
Shelf Life4 Indefinite 6 to 12 months

1 CARB standard

Source: https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/co2_vol_mass.php

Source: https://stnonline.com/industry-releases/real-world-testing-claims-propane-autogas-school-bus-emissions-are-significantly-lower-than-diesel/

4 Source: https://www.wpowerproducts.com/news/how-long-can-you-store-diesel/

 

Any conversation with fleet managers about their vehicle choices starts with performance because cost of ownership is essential to generating a positive R.O.I. That won’t change, but the push for low carbon and low criteria pollutant vehicles is only going to grow as regulatory changes match social interests in climate change.

The bottom line? Propane’s positive environmental attributes are a green bonus when matched with the performance advantages it has over diesel.

See a full downloadable fact sheet of the performance study by visiting: https://propane.com/for-my-business/fleet-vehicles/superior-plus-propane-case-study/

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About the Author

Steve Whaley writes for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at [email protected].