Phillips Energy, Harris Garage Team Up on Propane Autogas Fleet Conversions

Phillips Energy Inc., a fuel-related energy provider in southeastern Virginia, says it has partnered with regional automotive repair facility Harris Garage Inc. to help area fleet operators convert vehicles to run on propane autogas.

As reported, the companies will work to help fleet operators take advantage of government incentives and achieve the significant long-term economic and environmental benefits of propane autogas.

In 2010, Phillips Energy added propane autogas, E85 flex fuel and B20 biodiesel to its vehicle offering, making it one of the first companies in Virginia to offer three alternative fuels for on-road use.

Phillips Energy says it assists operators with their fleet conversion efforts by setting up their fuel storage and delivery infrastructure and coordinating with skilled vehicle installation partners, such as Harris Garage. Conversion hardware is supplied by Alliance Autogas, a specialized national provider of autogas technology and support.

During the fleet autogas conversion process, Phillips Energy technicians typically install pump stations and 1,000- to 2,000-gallon propane storage tanks on-site at the fleet’s headquarters. Meanwhile, fleet vehicles are taken to Harris Garage, where autogas-certified service technicians install U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-certified conversion systems that include a wiring harness, an autogas fuel tank and other bolt-on hardware. Factory vehicle warranties are not affected, and bi-fuel conversions are also available, enabling vehicles to switch between autogas and their original fuel if desired.

Phillips Energy says through its partnership with Harris Garage, a pump station can be installed in as little as two days, with individual vehicle conversions often being completed in less than eight hours.

“We are proud to be further extending our service partnership with Phillips on such important and forward-thinking initiatives,” says Michael Harris, president of Harris Garage. “Autogas conversions are truly win-win propositions, and we’re looking forward to helping more public and private fleets across our region capitalize on their many benefits.”

Currently, Phillips Energy and Harris Garage are nearly halfway through a 24-vehicle effort for the City of Newport News, converting Ford F-250 pickups in their building services, water works and landscape divisions to autogas. The project builds on the 2011 conversion effort at the city that involved 22 vehicles. Separately, the city also recently added 24 new autogas-powered buses to the fleet supporting its public school system.

The City of Newport News expects to save on fuel costs by using autogas in its vehicles. In addition, routine maintenance expenses, such as filter replacements and oil changes, are reduced due to the clean-burning properties of the fuel. Further savings may be realized if federal per-gallon alternative fuel excise tax credits, which had been in place for several years, are reinstated in the future.

“I believe we’ve reached a real tipping point in the evolution of the autogas movement,” says Elizabeth Phillips McCormick, vice president of Phillips Energy and president-elect of the Virginia Propane Gas Association. “Fleet conversions will become routine as more operators become familiar with the incentives and the economic advantages at stake and their comfort level rises with respect to conversion efforts that are becoming ever more efficient in their own right.”

1 COMMENT

  1. I applaud the City’s initiative to expand the use of propane Autogas (and/or other alternative fuels) but caution against the article’s reference to the US EPA-certified systems “not affecting factory warranty;” this is inaccurate. ALL retrofit systems affect factory warranty. The EPA certified system manufacturer (in this case, the Autogas Alliance partner that did the calibration work and submitted the vehicle to testing labs for EPA review/approval/certification) take on the responsibility for warranting all components and systems that are not the original OEM; this is the “trade off” the EPA certificate earns…. the original factory warranty on all non-alt fuel system parts (e.g. water pumps, steering, other non-combustion nor exhaust system parts) remain intact but the alt fuel system certificate holder takes responsibility for the fuel, combustion, and exhaust after-treatment systems. This is required by EPA as part of the award of the certificate; the certificate holder is relieved of prosecution for “fuel/emission system tampering violations” but takes on responsibility for those items that had been the responsibility of the OEM under federal law. The time-frame length of that responsibility varies a bit for different vehicles but generally, falls into the 100,000-mile mark for key exhaust components such as the catalytic converter. This rule applies even to those certificate holders who achieve the additional recognition from Ford as a “QVM.” In the case of Fords, the QVM designation does not mean that Ford extends THEIR warranty to the certificate holders’ system components— the customer still has TWO SEPARATE WARRANTIES on their vehicle. Ford QVM designation merely extends the “customer facing” process so that the customer does not have to haggle back and forth between the dealer and the alt fuel system supplier…. if a problem is determined to be related to the alt-fuel system, Ford manages that with the certificate holder behind the scenes. If an EPA certified system manufacturer has not gone thru the separate Ford-imposed “QVM” process (there are a number of EPA cert holders who do NOT have QVM status), then the customer has the added responsibility of working out the warranty issues with their alt-fuel system supplier and their local Ford dealer — this is certainly manageable but Ford does not step in to say “we’ll handle it behind the scenes” b/c that particular EPA certificate holder did not elect to go thru Ford’s “extra layer” of scrutiny. As long as the system is EPA or CARB certified, its a legal system but do not confuse “legal” with “OEM-warranted.” Again – ALL EPA-/CARB-certified alt fuel system RETROFITS (i.e., those not done at the factory and itemized in the VIN), have a SEPARATE WARRANTY for the alt fuel system components (e.g., ECM, injectors) and exhaust after-treatment components (e.g., catalytic converter, some sensors). Some alt fuel system suppliers have “blurred” this distinction, either deliberately or through lack of understanding of the arcane EPA regs (Note: I am NOT implying that is the case with this particular supplier). ONE LAST THOUGHT — If an alt fuel system supplier tells you “our system doesn’t need EPA certification,” STOP and do extra homework. EPA certification is REQUIRED for ANY system that in ANY WAY alters the original fuel, the original fuel system and combustion process (e.g., changes calibration, injects the alt fuel to the existing gasoline system, etc), and/or the exhaust system. Using a non-EPA-/CARB-certified system will DEFINITELY VOID THE VEHICLE WARRANTY.

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