“Why don’t more Canadians drive propane vehicles and cut their fuel costs in half?” asks Peter Maddox of the Canadian Propane Association.
There are more than 21 million propane vehicles worldwide, but only about 60,000 in Canada.
All newer propane vehicles on the road are aftermarket dual-fuel conversions. These vehicles start on gasoline then automatically switch over to propane in 30 seconds or in a few minutes, depending on how cold it is, advises Gary Froese, of Primemax Energy, which markets auto propane systems to fleet users.
The changeover is undetectable to the driver, and the system will automatically switch back to gasoline once propane runs out.
Fuel-injected propane systems, which comprise virtually all conversions since 2005, won’t trigger trouble codes and power output is nearly identical to gasoline. Older technology propane systems required up to one-third more propane to go the same distance, adds Froese.
Conversion costs are typically around $5,000, depending on the vehicle, so the target market is commercial drivers who log over 30,000 km per year. At that rate, they’d recoup their investment in under two years.
Fuel savings are about 50 percent at each fill-up compared to gasoline, since propane is only about 60 cents per gasoline-litre equivalent in the Toronto area.
Propane burns cleaner, cuts greenhouse gas emissions by one-quarter, and reduces maintenance costs as you can extend oil change intervals.
I recently had a chance to test drive a new Dodge Ram pickup with the propane conversion. The fuel switch-over was imperceptible and I also couldn’t detect any lag in power or acceleration on propane.
The downside though is there are only about 35 public auto propane fill stations in the GTA, and about 300 across Ontario. So, some route planning is required to keep you on the cheaper fuel during your travels. Even if you do run out, you can always continue to drive on gasoline.
Additionally, propane vehicles require a mandatory inspection every five years for $80.
While propane can offer great savings, drivers do need to travel enough to justify the conversion expense. As I noted in a previous article, unfortunately, I personally don’t fall into that category. If you do, it’s definitely an alternative fuel worth considering.
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