Propane’s Environmental, Economic Benefits Spotlighted at ACT Expo

Buyers and sellers of technologies that make fleets run cleaner and more efficiently gathered in Long Beach, Calif., April 30 through May 4 at the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo. This annual event featured five days of workshops, forums, sessions, and networking. Two days also included a trade show in which exhibitors showcased the latest transportation technologies, powertrains, and clean fuels. There were more than 3500 registered participants and more than 950 registered fleets.
ACT Expo Highlights the environmental, cost benefits of propane vehicles

Propane autogas had a visible presence at the show, both in the events and on the show floor. Among the news makers at the ACT Expo were Agility Fuel Solutions (Costa Mesa, Calif.), which has received 2018 EPA certification for its 488LPI 8.0-liter V-8 propane engine, and Roush CleanTech (Livonia, Mich.), which announced that a frozen food delivery company would be leasing 600 of its propane autogas-fueled vehicles by the end of the year. Elsewhere on the show floor, other propane-related vehicles, components, and equipment were also on display.

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) was prominent and active throughout the days of the event. PERC, a gold sponsor of the ACT Expo, manned a 20x20-ft booth and displayed a Blue Bird Vision propane school bus, and presented a two-and-a-half-hour series of workshops titled, “Propane Autogas Answers Fleet Needs!” In addition, PERC president and CEO Tucker Perkins was one of the speakers in a general session focused on the light- and medium-duty sector. His presentation was titled “Delivering the Goods: Propane’s Leading Role in Urban Mobility.”

“The traditional autogas shows we go to are more gas- and diesel-oriented; the ACT Expo is more forward-looking and more alternative fuel-facing,” Perkins told BPN after the show. “We are glad to have that discussion because propane has environmental benefits on top of the economic benefits. We have a great position in comparison to other fuels, and that is the message we want to get across at ACT.
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“There are three kinds of questions we hear from fleets,” he added. “One is from people who have almost no experience with propane as a fuel. They ask, ‘What is it? How does it work?’

“We don’t hear a lot of those questions anymore. Most fleet buyers are aware of propane autogas now. We have been going to these shows for five or six years, we have 200,000 vehicles out there, and we have mowers out there. So, the buyers are aware. What they ask now is, ‘How do I use propane in my fleet? How do I refuel my vehicles? Why is propane better for me?’

“The third kind of question is one we hear from most of the buyers at ACT. This is a California show and the buyers here are more focused on emissions and how propane can compete against alternative fuels. They ask, ‘Why should I choose propane over hydrogen, electric, or natural gas?’

“We always have a two-pronged message,” Perkins concluded. “First, propane offers a total cost of operation that is very competitive. It has a positive return on investment compared to any other fuel. Second, propane offers environmental benefits. In terms of emissions and noise, it is very strong compared to other alternative fuels. That is especially important at ACT, where the environmental aspect is front and center.”

AUTOGAS ANNOUNCEMENTS
Among the larger news items breaking at the ACT Expo were two that involved propane autogas.

Agility Fuel Solutions announced at the expo that it has received 2018 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification for its 488LPI propane engine. Agility’s product offerings include natural gas, hydrogen, hybrid and battery electric energy storage and delivery systems, Type 4 composite natural gas cylinders, propane and natural gas fuel systems, and propane fuel dispensers.

Agility’s 488LPI engine is an 8.0-liter, V-8 propane engine using Agility’s patented liquid propane injection (LPI) technology. It is built on a General Motors long-block V-8 engine block and Agility adds dress parts, the propane injection system, and controls.
ACT Expo highlights environmental, cost-saving benefits of propane autogas for delivery vehicle fleets Butane-Propane News (BPN) June 2018

Agility is now in the process of gaining EPA certification for its 366LPI 6.0-liter propane engine, which is also based on a GM V-8 gasoline engine. It is also working toward California Air Resources Board (CARB) certification for both the 366LPI and the 488LPI.

The 488LPI engine is well suited to school bus, propane bobtail, and medium-duty trucking applications, and the 366LPI is applicable to medium-duty delivery vans, said Brad Garner, president of Agility’s Powertrain Systems business unit, and Charles Silio, vice president, strategy, corporate development, and marketing.

They were at the ACT Expo to display Agility’s products to OEMs who may adopt the engine and/or fuel systems for their vehicles and to fleets who will want service parts for their vehicles, as well as the propane fuel systems and propane dispensers Agility offers.

“The fleets are happy to have a supplier who can address all their product, technical, and training needs for propane vehicles,” Garner said. “The OEMs are happy to have a credible supplier that can supply everything they require to build a vehicle to operate on propane fuel. We supply everything from the fuel dispenser to the tank and powertrain system, as well as integration capabilities that meet OEM-quality standards.”

Propane fuel is a great choice for medium-duty fleet vehicles due to the low cost of operation and lower incremental cost of propane vehicles compared to other alternatives, Garner and Silio explained. Propane can be a particularly good fit for return-to-base smaller fleets that can benefit from installing inexpensive propane fueling infrastructure onsite.

“Two years ago we recognized a need to serve our heavy-duty CNG vehicle customers who also run medium-duty vehicles. We determined that having the ability to offer complete systems was a key part of a value proposition for the medium-duty market, and with our Powertrain Systems business unit we now are able to supply the whole package,” Silio said. “We also knew we needed an offering that includes both CNG and propane to serve all of their fleet locations, and we have built a skill set that can be applied to both fuels.

“Unlike in the home heating market, in vehicle applications we don’t see CNG and propane as competitors; they are complementary,” he added. “The real competition for both is diesel and gasoline, and fleets looking to convert away from diesel or gasoline are more likely to do so if they have options for more of their fleet. So for a company like Agility that supplies solutions to fleets, CNG and LPG are complementary parts of an integrated clean fuel offering.”

“There isn’t one clean fuel solution that makes sense everywhere,” Garner said. “We work with fleets to find the best, most cost-effective solution for each of their locations, and we don’t give them a biased view; we can supply them the best solution using any clean fuel. And for medium-duty vehicles the best solution is often LPG.”

Roush CleanTech displayed in its booth a Schwan’s Home Service frozen food delivery truck along with prominent signage promoting propane autogas. These drew attention to the alternative fuel vehicle manufacturer’s announcement that the Minnesota-based frozen food delivery company was taking delivery of 200 Roush CleanTech E-450 cutaways in May and plans to lease an additional 400 units by the end of 2018. Each truck is equipped with a Ford 6.8-liter, V-10 engine and a Roush CleanTech propane autogas fuel system.

“Schwan’s has been running on propane since the 1970s and now they are running our system,” said Chelsea Uphaus, marketing director at Roush CleanTech.

“We have more than 18,000 propane vehicles on the road,” she added. “With this partnership with Schwan’s, we will see the deployment of another 600 propane-powered vehicles.”

To the fleet customers who attended the ACT Expo, Roush CleanTech promoted the fact that propane-powered vehicles have total costs of ownership much lower than traditional fuels and other alternative technologies; are much quieter than the equivalent diesel-powered vehicles; and reduce greenhouse gases by up to 25%, carbon monoxide by up to 60%, and nitrogen oxide by up to 20% compared to gasoline.

AUTOGAS PRODUCTS ON DISPLAY
Along with the Agility Fuel Solutions and Roush CleanTech booths, the trade show portion of the ACT Expo featured 75 advanced-technology vehicles on display and 162 exhibitors showcasing their products and services. Among the propane autogas-related items on display were tanks, gas detectors, and filters.

Worthington Industries’ (WI) exhibit at the expo included two LPG autogas tanks used for fuel storage in passenger cars, commercial delivery, and recreational vehicles. One, the ASME Toroidal Tank (F14L), is a full, center-filled toroidal tank with valve plate, mounted on brackets/legs. It is usually assembled in place of the spare tire, but can also be installed under the vehicle. The other product line displayed at the show, the ASME Cylindrical, includes LPG autogas cylinders available in diameters of 10 to 30 inches and lengths from 24 to 144 inches. Custom sizes or configurations are also available.

“Worthington Industries has a state-of-the-art manufacturing line dedicated to autogas production,” said Steve Kraus, key account territory manager, alternative fuels. “Our production process is highly automated allowing WI to maintain extremely tight tolerances which are critical to our partners. WI’s proprietary X-ray technology allows us to create overall tank weight savings of up to 30% over comparable products in the market. WI also has in-house design expertise allowing us to customize a tank to meet any fleet’s needs.”

Customers for these LPG autogas tanks include fuel system integrators like Roush and Alliance AutoGas. Applications include light- and medium-duty vehicles like school buses; the Ford E-450, F-59, and Transit; and other passenger vehicle applications.

“Our goals at the ACT show are to create brand awareness, showcase current autogas products, support our current LPG fuel system integrator trading partners, Roush, Blossman, etc., and meet new integrators who are interested in autogas,” Kraus said.

“Worthington is not just a supplier of LPG autogas products,” he added. “We manufacture tens of millions of pressure cylinders annually, making anything from familiar green 1-lb canisters to propane tanks used in backyard grills.”

Sensor Electronics (Savage, Minn.) displayed its gas detectors for industrial applications at the expo. The products of greatest interest to those who attend this event are those that provide plant safety for parking areas, repair facilities, and fueling areas that serve LPG or CNG vehicles. The products are also used by general contractors who install propane systems, including storage tanks and refueling systems, and manufacturers who use butane or propane to make foam molding.

“Our gas detectors need to be calibrated only once a year,” said Alan Petersen Jr., president of Sensor Electronics. “They have no wear-out mechanisms, so they last forever. They have no infrared light bulbs to wear out and no mirrors to corrode.”

Certools (Pabianice, Poland) was at the ACT Expo to display its range of LPG and CNG filters and accessories. These include filters, fittings, and hoses. Products are available for heavy-duty trucks and forklifts. Certools supplies OEMs, is ISO-certified, and delivers products to more than 40 countries. It is now seeking distributors in the U.S.

“We have almost 2000 [products] in our portfolio dedicated to propane and CNG,” said Pawel Czekalski, director of Certools. “In Poland, we have both new cars and converted cars that run on LPG, so Polish systems are very stable and popular.”

Integrated Sensing Solutions (Pittsburgh) displayed its gas detection instrumentation. The markets the company sought to reach at the ACT Expo included car and bus garages and alternative fuels R&D facilities.

James Skourlis, president of Integrated Sensing Solutions, said the main propane-related application of the company’s products is, “Smaller Transit (ParaTransit) buses — where they are stored, parked indoors, and fueled.”

CZAJA Filters (Radlin, Poland) was at the ACT Expo to display its range of filter products for automobiles powered by LPG and CNG. The company works with distributors, wholesalers, and producers around the world. It is ISO 9001 certified. CZAJA was at the expo seeking U.S. distributors for its CNG filters for trucks and buses, and its LPG filters for forklifts.

“We are not yet in the U.S.A., but we are in Europe, Russia, Turkey, India, Korea, Australia, and South America,” said Rafal Wojciechowski, quality management system representative. “We hope to get a contact this year in the U.S.A.”

Freightliner’s activities at the ACT Expo included displaying the Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) propane-autogas S2G chassis and promoting the DriveForce engine brand.

“DriveForce puts FCCC in the driver’s seat when it comes to complete sourcing, servicing, and ownership of the engine experience for our customers,” said Ron Anders, western region account manager. “It is the only factory-installed propane autogas engine available to the medium-duty market – which means we can provide the same outstanding customer service experience on this engine that we do on all of our other products.”

The S2G is being used in several applications in Southern California, near the location of the ACT Expo, Anders said. These include box trucks used for food and supplies delivery by the Los Angeles Unified School District and pothole patchers used by Los Angeles International Airport.

“Part of it is the cost,” Anders explained. “They already had the propane autogas infrastructure. Even if they didn’t have it, propane-autogas infrastructure is much more affordable than CNG.”

“Drivers love how well the trucks perform and how quiet they are,” he added. “A propane engine is much quieter than a diesel engine.”

The Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo is to return to the Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, Calif., April 23-26, 2019. For more information, visit www.actexpo.com. —Steve Relyea