Fuel Management

Developing Fueling Infrastructure for Propane Autogas

March 2013, Government Fleet - Feature

by Mike Taylor

At A Glance

Fueling infrastructure for propane-autogas vehicles can be both centralized and dispersed:

  • The King County (Wash.) DOT installed a central fueling facility, free of charge as part of its fuel contract.
  • The Indiana DOT installed a network of 115 fueling sites strategically located across the State.

When making the switch to alternative-­fuel vehicles within a fleet, fueling infrastructure can be one of the most important considerations about fuel choice. For government fleet vehicles, which travel at varied ranges, both on- or off-site, refueling needs to be addressed. Two Department of Transportation fleets — the Department of Transportation for King County, Wash. (KCDOT) and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) — have added diverse on-site refueling methods for their fleet vehicles fueled by propane autogas. Infrastructure investment has provided both fleets confidence in their refueling abilities and overall savings in fuel costs.

KCDOT has 20 fleet vehicles that run on propane autogas. These include Ford F-250 and F-350 work trucks and E-Series vans.
KCDOT has 20 fleet vehicles that run on propane autogas. These include Ford F-250 and F-350 work trucks and E-Series vans.

The KCDOT Fleet Division has 20 vehicles fueled by propane autogas, functioning in a wide variety of centralized applications. Crews from units responsible for sign and traffic signal repairs, electric and plumbing work, and road surveying are just a few that use the Ford F-250 and F-350 work trucks and Ford E-Series cargo and cutaway vans. KCDOT has renovated the on-site dispenser at its headquarters to allow for more efficient refueling.

INDOT has converted nearly 600 of its light-duty vehicles to a bi-fuel system, using gasoline and propane autogas, for its fleet.
INDOT has converted nearly 600 of its light-duty vehicles to a bi-fuel system, using gasoline and propane autogas, for its fleet.

INDOT has converted nearly 600 of its light-duty vehicles to a bi-fuel system, using gasoline and propane autogas for its regional fleet. The vehicles are used statewide to transport highway maintenance crews, signal technicians, survey crews, and construction inspectors to job sites and projects. To allow for readily available refueling, INDOT installed refueling dispensers at 115 of its facilities across the state.

Building a Network of Refueling Sites

While these fleets have implemented refueling dispensers on very different scales, both have realized cost savings from installing an on-site refueling infrastructure.

Rising fuel costs were a factor for INDOT, which started exploring new ways to fuel its fleet of 2,300 light-duty trucks and vans in 2008 after gasoline prices increased.

“We were trying to figure out how to pay for fuel for the agency because we hadn’t budgeted enough for gasoline and diesel and didn’t want to pass that cost along to taxpayers,” said Mark Ratliff, INDOT’s director of agency results and forecasting.

INDOT implemented a comprehensive network of refueling sites and negotiated a fuel contract that saved significant taxpayer dollars; based on 18 months of data, ­INDOT estimates annual savings amount to $900,000 per year. INDOT’s 115 refueling sites were installed by both the agency and contracted personnel. The refueling locations are strategically located at INDOT facilities, such that nearly all state highways are within a 30-mile radius of a refueling site. These locations provide drivers with convenient accessibility.

Each refueling site has a 1,000-gallon tank accessible to drivers 24 hours a day; a fuel card issued to each driver provides dispenser access. The state has a sole-source contract with a propane-autogas provider to facilitate fuel deliveries.

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