A Fuel for the Winter


Warren Patterson, vice president of commercial operations and sales at AmeriGas

Last month’s issue covered alternative fuels, and this month we’ve discussed winterization. Here in Outside the Cab, we’re combining both topics. Warren Patterson is the vice president of commercial operations and sales at AmeriGas located in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. We chatted about why propane autogas is a great fuel for winter climates—even better than conventional fuels.

JADE BRASHER, MWS: Using a block heater has become a fact of life for diesel truck drivers in cold winter months. Why would your customers prefer another option?

PATTERSON, AmeriGas: You have to connect them, you have to maintain them. People have driven away with them still plugged in the outlet. There are definitely issues with diesel engines and the gumming up of ethanol. With block heaters, there are some safety issues as well. I know in colder weather, propane works better because the air-fuel mixture is gaseous when it enters the engine. The ethanol and biodiesel blends, they tend to gel. Because of the chemical characteristics of propane, it operates better at lower temperatures. Propane vehicles can operate at -70 degrees.

BRASHER: Why do your customers prefer propane over conventional fuels?

PATTERSON: There are four buckets that prove propane autogas makes more sense: It’s cleaner, it’s quieter, the total cost of ownership is less, and it’s not diesel.

Propane is cleaner. It’s part of the Clean Air Act of 1991. This same propane that goes in a vehicle is the same propane you cook on. You don’t have all those emissions.

They are quiet. If you’re a delivery driver and you’ve got your logbook that is beeping, you don’t want to navigate over the roar of the diesel engines. It is not ideal for a work truck driver to wear earplugs. The quietness is key.

From a total cost of ownership standpoint, propane is less expensive to maintain, and it’s a less expensive fuel per gallon than diesel. You don’t have the maintenance issues with diesel emissions. There are less breakdowns and less wear and tear on cylinders.

It gets rid of diesel emissions.

BRASHER: Are there maintenance benefits to owning a propane fleet vs a diesel fleet?

PATTERSON: You don’t have to add diesel exhaust fluid. It’s a cleaner-burning system, and you don’t have the same deposits that work its way through the entire system, which in the long run affects how the engine operates. As ethanol gels, it gets “gummier” faster. Plus, there is the hassle of having to do maintenance in a cold environment.

BRASHER: What should fleet managers be aware of regarding propane autogas fueling?

PATTERSON: It is typically less expensive for a fleet to install a propane dispenser compared to installing a diesel station or electric charging. Propane autogas is usually less expensive when compared to other fuels.

BRASHER: What is your advice to owners of diesel and gas fleets who are interested in converting to propane autogas?

PATTERSON: Propane is a very reliable, known fuel. Many OEMs have already invested money in propane engine technology, making it safe. It’s also affordable. I advise fleet owners to speak to their peers who have used propane. Our customers who try propane trucks keep buying them, as they enjoy the benefits. Those interested in a propane autogas fleet can contact AmeriGas or ROUSH CleanTech.

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