Laketran Considers Alternative Fuel

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Advances in the technology of propane and its cost compared to diesel fuel is making propane a more attractive option to fuel Laketran’s fleet of 74 Dial-a-Ride buses in the future. Laketran has spent time this year evaluating options between gasoline, diesel fuel, propane, and compressed natural gas.

Staff quickly eliminated compressed natural gas because of cost and diesel due to limited vehicle availability.

Propane is a clean burning fuel due to its lower carbon content and significantly reduces smog forming hydrocarbons and greenhouse emissions, over gasoline and diesel fuels. Additionally, propane is American-made, reducing dependence on foreign oil.

The stability of propane fuel costs helps long-term planning and the agency expects to reduce air pollutants and reduce operating expenses and vehicle replacement costs.

“Laketran is always looking for more efficient ways to operate and reduce cost. It’s easy to find the savings,” shared Ben Capelle, Laketran operation manager, “Right now it costs about $64 a day per vehicle to fuel a Dial-a-Ride bus. We could reduce the cost to about $40 a day per vehicle.”

Propane’s lower BTU rating results in slightly lower fuel economy, however the lower price quickly offsets the fuel economy.

In addition to fuel savings, a propane bus cost about $6,000 less than current diesel and maintenance is less expensive compared to other alternatives.

Another benefit of purchasing alternative fuel vehicles, Laketran will be able to capitalize on federal and state funding opportunities used to incent transit systems that use alternative fuels to help the community attain air quality standards.

Upfront costs would require installing a new fuel storage and distribution system; however these costs would occur with any new fueling option.

Laketran replaces twelve Dial-a-Ride vehicles annually and would begin the transition starting in 2017.

Gabe Arnold
Author: Gabe Arnold