Agility Fuel Solutions-CleanFUEL USA Deal Expands Medium-Duty Focus

Shortly after saying at the May Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Long Beach, Calif. that it was adding propane power system capability to complement its natural gas fuel system offerings, Agility Fuel Solutions (Costa Mesa, Calif.) later that month said its new business unit had acquired CleanFUEL USA (Georgetown, Texas). Agility noted the purchase allowed it to “immediately offer complete propane fuel systems for commercial vehicles.”
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Agility president of powertrain systems Brad Garner and vice president of business development and strategy Charlie Silio spoke with BPN after the CleanFUEL USA acquisition. Garner said his company believes that with the right product and aftermarket support package, many more propane vehicles can be on the road, even with current low gasoline prices.

“The economics can still be found,” Garner said. “It’s just all in how you bring it to market.” He observed that companies in areas such as food service will often run their larger vehicles on natural gas, but for local route deliveries they will typically choose propane. “That’s just how things go. We don’t want to drive that decision. We just desire to be in the propane space because we’ve got many places we sell to now that market propane, and we want to deliver that propane in the same proactive, professional manner that Agility has become known for in the natural gas space.”

He added that his company made public the propane business unit launch at the ACT Expo before the CleanFUEL USA acquisition announcement to make a “serious statement” that Agility was moving into the propane space. “We’ll be moving forward to first address the medium-duty, on-highway market to prepare this fuel system for OEM [original equipment manufacturer] engagement and sales,” said Garner. Silio outlined that Agility was previously a fuel storage and delivery technology business, and the CleanFUEL USA acquisition allows Agility “to support the entire fuel solution on a vehicle.”

Agility will hire what Garner described as “a core nucleus” of 15 people from CleanFUEL USA for its new propane business unit. Heading that team is CleanFUEL USA CEO and founder Curtis Donaldson, who becomes general manager of business development for the Agility propane unit.  Garner highlighted Donaldson’s “very strong ties with the propane industry and related government entities that support that industry.” Wayne Moore, COO at CleanFUEL USA, will join Agility to support OEM and aftermarket programs. Silio said Moore “is a fixture in the propane industry. He’s got a lot of experience and track time in the OEM and aftermarket space for liquid propane injection.” Brooke McWhirter, who was channel manager, school bus market, at CleanFUEL USA, also comes to Agility as a sales associate.
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Donaldson commented to BPN that for Agility the acquisition broadens its alternative fuel system diversity while immediately expanding its offerings. “We think that’s a good space for propane and will continue to be a good space for propane,” he said. “I think you’ll see us continue down that path, and then of course with the resources and capabilities that Agility brings to the table, that keeps us looking at future product and future engine opportunities in that medium-duty space. We’ll continue what we’re doing now and look to the future to do whatever we need to do to stay in this space, whether it’s a new engine we go after and get certified, or continue with this engine and continue the certification. We’ll have more resources and more opportunities, I think, because of the marriage.”

Donaldson, who founded CleanFUEL USA in 1993 and has worked in alternative fuels since 1982, said he will do “what I love doing” at Agility, which is strategizing and providing a vision for the company. He remembers being the only person at tradeshows in the 1990s talking about propane. Donaldson recalled going to early meetings of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and about his company working with PERC to help convert President George W. Bush’s pickup truck to propane in the early 2000s. He also spoke about working with the council on the first propane school bus. His work with Agility, he said, will “continue that same vision. I think all those visions worked out well. Now all the manufacturers have [propane] school buses, so hopefully I can continue to be that strategic visionary guy that looks to future fleet needs and that our capabilities match up. So I’ll be right in the middle, and heart of, the propane business development piece within Agility.”

He added that CleanFUEL USA and Agility have similar values, which should make for a strong partnership. “If you’re going to consolidate with anybody, you sure hope it’s somebody similar to you relative to how you take care of the customer and how you work with your fellow employees. And we couldn’t have handpicked a better partner. With their commitment to customer service, their commitment to product expansion to take care of future customer needs, and their culture, we couldn’t be more pleased with where we are and the opportunities that lie ahead for us under their umbrella.”

Agility could continue CleanFUEL USA’s work with PERC. Tucker Perkins, now president and CEO of PERC, was president and COO at CleanFUEL USA before joining PERC in 2012. “We are pleased that Agility sees the opportunity in the propane autogas marketplace and will carry on with the great work that CleanFUEL provided for many years,” he said.