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“It was not necessarily the technology, but the company they are dealing with, as well as some logistics issues,” Chase stated. “The information I got from Roush CleanTech regarding propane and its flexibility, it’s just a matter of getting the right fittings to be able to fill your trucks up and working around the price that you might like to get.” Range issues with CNG also swayed him toward propane.
The switch to propane autogas will help the delivery drivers concentrate more on the task of transporting packages. When drivers work with the windows open for most of the year, diesel exhaust fumes from their own vehicles often waft into the driver compartment. With the low-emissions propane system, the driver won’t constantly have the light-headed feeling that sometimes comes from smelling diesel all day. Also, propane autogas runs quieter than diesel, another factor that allows the driver to focus more on the job at hand.
But the cost savings of propane autogas is the main reason Chase made the switch. A press release announcing his move to propane mentioned that his business would save about $25,000 by switching that one truck alone to propane, but Chase claims that number is “pretty conservative” because it doesn’t factor in such elements as the propane engine’s reduced maintenance cost compared to a diesel engine. He expects a less than three-year return on investment, and he plans to add three more alternative fuel trucks to his fleet by year-end.
Chase, an advocate of various alternatives to diesel, hopes the exposure from the NTEA show will push more FedEx Ground contractors that are on the fence to move to alternative fuels.
Roush CleanTech has worked to expand the number of industries that use propane autogas. The move toward package delivery started through Roush CleanTech’s partnership with Ford dealerships across the country, and the FedEx Ground deal started through South Bay Ford in Hawthorne, Calif.
Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for Roush CleanTech, said Roush CleanTech built some demonstration units for South Bay Ford to allow customers to test the vehicles to see if they liked them. Green Alternative Systems (Chino, Calif.) installed the propane systems on the demonstration units.
Roush CleanTech and Federal Express have discussed expanding the use of vehicles beyond its FedEx Ground business, but Mouw could not provide details on those discussions. He sees additional uses for the F-59 beyond package delivery, however. Linen service companies and vending machine delivery companies have shown interest in the chassis.
Chase currently fuels the vehicles at Rusiniak’s, a towing company and gasoline station in Cheektowaga, N.Y. that sells propane autogas. He has spoken to Federal Express’ corporate sustainability department and hopes the department will soon allow an onsite propane filling station to be built at the FedEx Ground terminal. —Daryl Lubinsky
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