Blue Star Gas knows how to make propane work as an alternative fuel for a fleet. Founded in 1938, the company has 16 operations across the West Coast, including California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. It joined the Alliance AutoGas network in 2008, and since has become well acquainted with converting fleet vehicles to run on autogas, also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
Limousine and motorcoach operations already are getting behind propane. Alliance AutoGas has converted vehicles for companies such SuperShuttle, Transdev, Metro Cars, Lucky Limousine in Portland, Ore., and Driver Provider in Phoenix.
Location: 15, six each in California and Oregon, one each in Washington, Utah and Arizona. Founded: 1938 Service: Alternative fuel solutions including certified conversion systems, conversion centers, fueling equipment, fuel supply, and user training for all commercial fleet sizes. Founder: Paul Stewart Employees: 120 Website: www.bluestarautogas.com Contact: Darren Engle (530) 945-8604
“We have EPA certification for the majority of the main product lines for limousines and other chauffeur driven vehicles,” says Darren Engle, director of government relations for Blue Star Gas. Part of the appeal is the money operators can save on reduced maintenance costs. Autogas has half as much carbon in it as traditional fossil fuels, meaning that engines last longer and oil changes go further.
That’s not the only benefit that autogas provides. It costs about 40% less to operate vehicles on propane than on gasoline. Even with today’s downturn in gas prices, propane is still more than $1.50 cheaper. “This adds considerable relief to the bottom line of operating expenses,” Engle says. Not only that, but it’s also a greener fuel much cleaner for the environment. Yet another trait that makes it appealing is it’s a domestic fuel that lessens dependence on foreign oil — 98% of it is produced in the U.S. “Whether you care most about the environment, national security, or the economy, you get all three with one fuel,” Engle says.
Alliance AutoGas works with customers to ensure a seamless transition from gasoline to autogas. “[For] a chauffeured vehicle fleet owner, his job is to run his business, not to worry about conversion pieces or fueling strategies,” Engle says. “The partnership we create with [customers] takes care of all of that so they can continue to focus on their business. They don’t need to worry if it’s EPA certified or if there’s going to be fueling infrastructure available to them.”
While safety is always a large concern, Alliance AutoGas employees work not only with the drivers, but also with whoever maintains the company’s fleet to ensure everyone understands how to properly refuel the vehicles. “This way, everybody in the chain is comfortable with the fuel,” Engle says. The fuel is safe compared to CNG, which involves refueling a vehicle at very high pressures.
Skeptics can rest easy knowing the equipment used for autogas conversation is transferable. When you retire the original vehicle, you pay a transfer fee and Alliance AutoGas will move the equipment to your new one. This allows you to pick the vehicle that best fits your fleet.
“We are constantly acquiring new certifications for vehicle conversions, and always making sure our customers have the latest and greatest technology in regards to refueling,” Engle says.
In addition, refueling autogas powered vehicles is easier than ever. Gone is the traditional twist-on connection — they’ve now been changed to a stab-fitting like a normal gas pump. The seamless process can be done with one hand, and emits virtually no fumes or emissions when disconnected.
Range anxiety is often a factor that hinders divers from choosing autogas, but Engle says fear not — customers will continue to see more public infrastructure being built, mostly in metropolitan areas.
“The goal is to build a network of propane infrastructure across the country so you can drive all over without worrying about running out of fuel,” he says. “We want to make the fuel experience as close to gasoline or better. In many aspects, autogas is better.”