The other alternative fuel — propane — making inroads in Oregon
By Lee van der Voo
Sustainable Business Oregon contributing writer
Propane for vehicle fleet is cropping up as a viable option for companies looking to cut down on emissions and costs.
A two-year-old partnership between a family-owned propane supplier and a national company promoting propane autogas is making inroads for the gasoline alternative. And at least one fleet manager who’s made the switch is singing propane’s praises.
Propane is already an established vehicle fuel in other parts of the world. Dubbed propane autogas or simply autogas, it fuels 17.5 million cars worldwide, though only 180,000 of those are in the United States.
Proponents say cleaner-burning propane failed catch on here in a bygone era of cheap oil, but it’s finding its footing lately, since Alliance AutoGas stepped up to fill a gap in technology.
Importing propane systems and components from the Dutch company Prins Autogassystem BV, Alliance has partnered with American propane suppliers to promote propane as a fuel source. On the West Coast, Blue Star Gas, the 75-year-old company based in Santa Rosa, Calif., has taken up the charge of urging propane uptake in Oregon.
With four of the company’s 13 offices here, Blue Star has been talking aggressively with vehicle regional fleet managers about conversion. They say while propane might not be a sensible choice for consumers with a single passenger vehicle — it requires an investment in fueling infrastructure — it’s a great fit for vehicle fleets.
In Oregon, the Portland-based Franz Family Bakeries has fueled 40 of its 1,400-vehicle delivery fleet with propane for 30 years. Tommy Moreno, Franz’s fleet manager, said it’s been difficult to find the technology to convert newer vehicles to propane, though the company already ha a dependable propane-fueling infrastructure at locations throughout Oregon.
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