Myths about propane and trucking debunked

Todd Mouw Roush CleanTech renewable propane Headshot
Updated May 16, 2024
ROUSH CleanTech propane fuel tank truck parked
ROUSH CleanTech’s propane autogas fuel systems retain equivalent horsepower, torque and towing capacity as their gasoline and diesel counterparts, especially on hills.
ROUSH CleanTech

Many fleet operators are beginning to build sustainable fleets by adopting trucks with alternative fuel technology. The number one alternative fuel in the world is propane autogas — an affordable, non-carcinogenic, domestically produced, readily abundant fuel that is dramatically cleaner than diesel or gasoline. But beyond the theoretical challenges of transitioning away from conventional fuels, there are the very real concerns fleet operators have about day-to-day operations, cleanliness, safety and return on investment. Here, I address some recent questions and concerns about how propane autogas fits into the clean fuel landscape.

Is propane autogas a fossil fuel? Does it produce harmful emissions?

Propane autogas — which is classified as a clean energy source — is a recycled, reclaimed, recovered, reprocessed energy product that would go to waste if it were not salvaged from other energy processes. While it is a fossil fuel, propane produces significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than diesel, gasoline and electricity in a wide range of applications. Renewable propane, which is a non-fossil fuel produced from 100% raw, sustainable materials, is even cleaner than conventional propane. 

Isn’t propane old news? How is the propane of today different from the propane of the 1980s and 1990s?

Propane engine technology has completely changed in the last 15 years. With modern systems, propane remains in a liquid state until it gets to the cylinder. This removes the cold-start issues associated with vapor technology propane systems of the past. ROUSH CleanTech’s systems start immediately in weather as cold as negative 40 degrees F. Vehicles equipped with ROUSH CleanTech’s propane autogas fuel systems retain equivalent horsepower, torque and towing capacity as their gasoline and diesel counterparts, especially on hills.

How does the fuel economy of a propane vehicle compare to diesel models?

When it comes to fuel economy, miles per gallon is slightly less for propane than for diesel, due to the energy/BTU content of the propane fuel itself. While the miles per gallon with propane is slightly less than diesel, there are other data points that fleet operators typically use to calculate the total cost of ownership. Cost per mile, annual fuel costs and maintenance expenses all play a large role in the overall savings equation.

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Are propane vehicles safe? Is there a risk of explosion?

Vehicles equipped with ROUSH CleanTech propane fuel tanks are extremely safe. In fact, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) recommends replacing diesel-fueled engines with propane-fueled engines where possible. Here’s why:

●     Propane will not ignite when combined with air unless the source of ignition reaches at least 940 degrees Fahrenheit.

●      ROUSH CleanTech fuel tanks are 20 times more puncture-resistant than gasoline or diesel tanks. They’re constructed from carbon steel in compliance with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

●      Unlike gas or diesel, propane is part of a closed-looped system, meaning the fuel is never exposed to air and won’t spill.

Many fleet directors feel pigeonholed because they’re told that there’s only one path to clean transportation. I’m here to tell you that’s simply not true. A fair and sustainable solution for fleets looking to meet upcoming emissions requirements involves many sources of clean fuel. Propane is a great option for commercial vehicles; however, many of our customers have diverse fleets that also include diesel, electric, compressed natural gas and gasoline vehicles.        

Todd Mouw is executive vice president of sales and marketing at Roush CleanTech and former president of the NTEA Green Truck Association.        

Hydrogen Fuel Cell & BEV Survey
The following survey was sent as a link in an email cover message in February 2023 to the newsletter lists for Overdrive and CCJ. After approximately two weeks, a total of 176 owner-operators under their own authority, 113 owner-operators leased or assigned to a carrier and 82 fleet executives and 36 fleet employees from fleets with 10 or more power units had completed and submitted the questionnaire for a total of 407 qualified responses. Cross-tabulations based on respondent type are provided for each question when applicable.
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