Why One Light-Duty Fleet Wants Propane Autogas

Waterbury, Conn.-based Campion Ambulance Service Inc., a local provider of emergency- and medical-related transportation services, is in the midst of converting half of its fleet of light-duty assets to run on propane autogas.

Company president and CEO William T. Campion Jr. tells NGT News that he had been looking at various alternative fuels for a few years. Medicare, Medicaid and other healthcare programs pay fixed rates for the types of services that Campion offers, but the prices of gasoline and diesel – as every fleet manager has become well aware – are anything but static. In turn, getting fuel costs under control became one way the company could find a competitive edge.

The main factor that nudged Campion toward propane autogas was the ability to cost-effectively host the refueling infrastructure. Regional propane company Paraco Gas helped Campion install a 1,000-gallon tank and the associated fuel dispensing equipment, and the first delivery of autogas was priced at about $1.60/gallon. Future deliveries will vary in price, he says, but remain under $2.00/gallon.

So far, five of the company's vehicles have been converted to bi-fuel autogas technology. American Alternative Fuel, based in West Coxsackie, N.Y., performed the initial autogas system installations, and Campion is hoping to draw from Paraco's relationship with Alliance AutoGas in order to train his own fleet technicians to perform certified vehicle conversions.

‘Right now, we plan to do the entire wheelchair van fleet,’ he says, noting that this segment of the fleet totals 24 vehicles.

The vans that the company is eyeing for conversion are based on the Ford E-250 chassis: a platform that is ‘ideally set up for propane.’ Campion says that with an E-250, a propane tank mounts easily right where the spare tire would normally be, providing a relatively simple swap-out that also preserves the vehicle's original gasoline tank.

Notably, Campion is not yet teeing up the company's 21 diesel-powered ambulances for propane conversions, citing caution about using any alternative fuel for these emergency vehicles. Quite simply, he is not convinced that the technology is sufficiently proven, at this point, to warrant the switch from tried-and-true diesel.

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