Businesses, governments, and individuals in Canada are always searching for more economical and environmental solutions to power everyday life. When it comes to automotive choices, the rapidly expanding electric vehicle sector is one option, but some consumers are also looking at alternative fuels such as auto propane.
As gas prices continue to fluctuate, powering business or government fleet vehicles with auto propane is becoming increasingly popular because of its clean and reliable properties. What used to be seen by many as a way to power a Zamboni is now a viable option for fuelling their fleet.
Derived from natural gas processing and oil refining, propane is an affordable, safe, and low-emission energy option – and one that is readily available in Canada. In fact, auto propane is the third most popular automotive fuel in the world after gasoline and diesel.
For Canadian fleet managers looking for a cheaper and greener option, switching to propane to fuel buses, courier vans, taxis and other high-mileage vehicles is both a low-emission and cost-effective solution.
For the first week of February, Natural Resources Canada listed the average Canadian retail price of auto propane as 61.3 cents per litre (including tax). In comparison, the average price of regular gasoline was listed as 107.3 cents per litre for the same week.
Propane vehicles have a similar power output to gasoline vehicles, so there is no noticeable difference between the two when driving.
In addition to being cost-effective, auto propane is recognized by the Canadian Alternative Fuels Act s for its low emissions and environmental impact.
According to the Canadian Propane Association, the carbon footprint of propane is significantly lower than that of gasoline – auto propane produces up to 26 per cent less lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, and emits 98 per cent less particulate matter than diesel-fuelled vehicles.
In addition, propane emits up to 96 per cent less benzene, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and 1,3-butadiene than gasoline. In the unlikely event of a leak, propane becomes a vapour which quickly dissipates and does not contaminate the surrounding environment.
Airways Transit, the largest provider of airport ground transportation in Canada, operates a fleet 100 per cent fuelled by auto propane. Other Canadian fleet managers taking advantage of propane’s clean and reliable properties include Canada Post and the New Westminster Police.
UPS currently has over 1000 propane-powered vehicles in its fleet, and back in 2015, Southland Transportation added 101 propane school buses to the Calgary School Board bus fleet.
Currently, the only original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vehicles available for purchase in Canada are school buses produced by Blue Bird Corporation, but propane conversion centres and conversion systems exist for those looking to convert gasoline-powered vehicles.
The Canadian Propane Association estimates that an average auto propane vehicle conversion costs around $6,000 – not bad if you consider you’ll be paying about 40 per cent less for fuel compared to gasoline for the same driving range, in addition to lower maintenance costs.
Transportation is one of the largest sources of pollution and B.C. is doing its part to reduce GHG emissions. In 2012, the City of Prince George approved a pilot conversion project to convert City vehicles to propane. In that same year, Surrey became the first major city in Canada to pass a bylaw that requires all new gas stations to include alternative fuel sources (whether they be electric, hydrogen, propane or compressed natural gas).
Propane is a clean choice in every application, especially for a larger fleet. Through clean energy vehicles and propane-powered fleets, B.C. can take steps to make the province more environmentally sustainable for everyone.
Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. You can email him at [email protected].