ROUSH CleanTech: 20,000 Autogas Vehicles and Counting

(January 15, 2020) — When ROUSH CleanTech (Livonia, Mich.) sold eight propane autogas-fueled delivery trucks in December 2019, it achieved a milestone—the sale included its 20,000th autogas vehicle.
Roush cleantech milestone more than 20000 clean propane autogas vehicles sold reports bpn in jan 2020
Roush CleanTech Sells 20,000th Propane autogas Vehicle reports BPN the propane industry's leading source for news and info since 1939The manufacturer of alternative fuel vehicles has built and deployed that many autogas-fueled Ford trucks and Blue Bird school buses since its formation in 2010. It has sold them to more than 1200 fleets across North America.

The road to this milestone began in 2006 with a $1.2-million grant from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) for development of a liquid propane autogas fuel system for the Ford F-150. Greg Zilberfarb, an alternative fuel vehicle consultant at PERC and CEO and president at TSN Communications, had introduced PERC to Roush Enterprises. PERC had been looking to promote propane for on-road transportation, and Zilberfarb suggested they talk with Roush, a provider of engineering and product development solutions.
Roush CleanTech Marks Sale of 20000 Propane autogas vehicles rpts BPN lpg industry leading source for news since 1939
“We already had a rich history of power train development using alternative fuels, so this was a good fit,” Todd Mouw, president of ROUSH CleanTech, tells BPN. Mouw has been with this division of Roush Enterprises since it was announced in 2009, first as vice president of sales and marketing and now, since February 2018, as president.

The first project was performed within the ROUSH Performance Group. The F-150 was chosen for that project because the pickup is a big seller for Ford. However, PERC and Roush came to see that the F-150 is much more of a retail truck than a fleet truck. That means there is only a short sales window before Ford changes the vehicle again to compete in the consumer market. Companies that have developed modifications for the truck must then start over again.

“The sales were not what we had hoped, but it was a good start,” Mouw says today. “This project provided proof of concept. Looking through a technical lens, we understood the effectiveness of using propane in transportation.”

After this success, Roush then announced in 2009 a long-term propane product strategy with the launch of fuel system development for Ford F-250/F-350 and Ford E-150/E-250/E-350. In 2010, ROUSH CleanTech was legally formed. Its primary purpose was the development of propane autogas fuel systems.
Roush CleanTech Celebrates sale of more than 20,000 propane autogas vehicles reports bpn the propane industry's trusted source for news since 1939
The company expanded into another market in 2011. School bus manufacturer Blue Bird was looking to move away from the propane engine it had been using. At the same time, ROUSH CleanTech was developing a propane autogas fuel system for Ford’s 6.8L engine.

“We were hearing from customers that their pain point was diesel, because of the emissions and the fluctuating costs,” Mouw explains. “So we made a full-fledged transition to medium-duty vehicles and school buses. That is where we are today.”

ROUSH CleanTech has also seen that these larger vehicles—Class 4, 5, 6, and 7 trucks and school buses—consume more fuel than a light-duty vehicle like the F-150.

“Where do fleets spend the most for fuel and maintenance? It’s these bigger trucks and buses. Plus, a fleet’s biggest pain point is diesel; they need to get away from those engines. The fleets are looking for something that is more sustainable, both environmentally and economically. So, we help them out of diesel and into propane.”
Roush CleanTech celebrates sale of more than 20,000 propane autogas vehicles reports bpn the propane industry's leading source for news since 1939
Propane remains the company’s primary focus, but ROUSH CleanTech has been working with other alternative fuels as well. The company launched compressed natural gas (CNG) systems for school buses in 2016. This was done to help Blue Bird service customers that already have existing CNG infrastructure.

“We have sold 50 CNG school buses and 15,000 propane school buses,” Mouw reports. “The market has spoken: propane is the better choice.”

The company has also announced a battery electric option for medium-duty trucks and buses. This is to go into production in late 2020. This option is being added for fleets that must comply with California’s zero-emissions mandate.

“One message to all of us in the propane industry is, the electric industry is much more organized and effective. They are imposing electric vehicles from the top down. We as an industry must be more unified than ever.”

Electric has a bright future in transportation, but it’s not there yet. There are challenges still to be figured out, including building the infrastructure and lowering the cost.
Roush CleanTech Celebrates sale of more than 20,000 clean-burning propane lpg autogas vehicles reports bpn
“There is not a single silver bullet,” Mouw explains. “While we sort out the electric challenges, we have a solution—propane—that is a clean, domestic fuel source that is available now. Propane can be a key contributor to replacing diesel and foreign-sourced energy.”

Propane marketers can help get this message out to fleets. One thing they can do is talk with local school officials. There are 400,000 older, dirty school buses on the road today that could be replaced with autogas buses.

PROMOTING AUTOGAS
“Many marketers already have these relationships in the community,” Mouw notes. “They can leverage those relationships by simply asking, ‘Have you considered this?’”

Marketers can connect school officials with ROUSH CleanTech, who can show them how to transition their fleet to propane autogas. ROUSH, in turn, will include the marketer in the process. The marketer can then sell additional fuel to these customers who may already be buying propane for space and water heating.

Another thing propane marketers can do to promote autogas is run their own medium-duty trucks on the fuel they sell. Mouw acknowledges some have had bad experiences with autogas-fueled trucks in years past, but he adds the systems have been figured out on today’s vehicles. He suggests marketers call ROUSH CleanTech to learn how they can make the conversion and how the company will support them throughout the ownership of the vehicles.

“When you talk to a school district about autogas, you’re sending a contradictory message if your fleet is running on diesel.”

Today, as it marks the occasion of the sale of its 20,000th autogas vehicle, ROUSH CleanTech offers 10 propane autogas commercial Ford models. The eight Ford F-750 delivery trucks sold in December to an air service provider, dnata, are built with the company’s 6.8L V10 3V propane engine, which is certified to the optional near-zero nitrogen oxide (NOx) level of 0.02 g/bhp-hr.

Mouw thanks the propane industry for the initial PERC investment that launched the development of products like these. “The industry helped us get started. We had five employees when we started and we have 130 now. We appreciate it. Your investment has paid off.” — Steve Relyea

Where Do We Grow From Here? A Propane Inspiration Home Leads The Way

(January 13, 2020) — Last June, the Missouri Propane Education and Research Council (MOPERC) wrapped up promotional activities for a model home at Lake of the Ozarks that featured propane appliances throughout. In partnership with developer Dave Leathers, the Propane Inspiration Home showcased the many benefits propane can provide for homeowners beyond space heating and hot water.
MOPERC built all propane model home at Lake Ozarks and its a huge hit reports BPN leading source for news since 1939
“The partnership was beneficial for all concerned,” Steve Ahrens, MOPERC president, told BPN. “The developer’s goal was to raise funds for a local food pantry through the sale of the home. MOPERC’s goal was to generate video and photo assets that we could use in future marketing. We both gained a new appreciation for working with homebuilders and subcontractors to incorporate propane appliances.”

A HOUSE IS BORN
The Inspiration Home opportunity came about through a conversation between Ahrens and Leathers, who also publishes lifestyle magazines from Cabo to Kansas City, including two that cover the Lake of the Ozarks region. “Dave has a fantastic product, and we have been longtime advertisers as the region is a great market for propane homes,” Ahrens said. “When he mentioned his Inspiration Home project, our participation seemed like a very good fit.”

The agreement called for the new home to feature a propane furnace, water heater, fireplace, stove, clothes dryer, outdoor grill and lighting, and a backup generator. MOPERC would provide funding to cover the acquisition, installation, and price differential on some appliances in exchange for the opportunity to promote the home and generate assets that could be used in other campaigns. Leathers would promote the home as well, holding open houses for local builders, real estate sales personnel, and home buyers, in addition to featuring the residence in his publications.
MOPERC's all propane home provides savings, security, eco-friendly energy source reports BPN the LPG industry's leading source for news since 1939
Strategically, the Council agreed to focus on the “flame” aspects of propane homes.

“While they generate most of the load, furnaces and water heaters are not the most exciting part of the home to promote,” Ahrens said. “We wanted to ensure the ‘wow’ factor of a propane home—the comfort of a fireplace, the security of a backup generator, the livability of outdoor appliances, and the appeal of an upscale range. Too often, we sell the economics of space and water heating and not the aspirational, emotional appeal that is unique to propane.”

MOPERC’s inaugural Inspiration Home project was built around a $150,000 outreach and education campaign that promoted the home and its specific features through social media, digital marketing, and print. Appliance installation and upfits added another $45,000. Early on, the Council developed a Welcome Home magazine that was sent to all Missouri dealers that kicked off the concept of whole-home promotion. Today, images from the Propane Inspiration Home are used throughout the state’s Welcome Home marketing effort.

“This was an opportunity to showcase the whole-home environment by creating images of a propane lifestyle,” Ahrens said. “We wanted potential customers to imagine themselves in that setting. Our ‘Welcome Home’ theme reinforces that aspirational message.”

There were only a few hiccups during the Propane Inspiration Home project. “First, the home sold much more quickly than we had anticipated. We had hoped for a few more open houses to promote the home, but were happy that it found a new and very enthusiastic owner,” Ahrens said. “Second, we learned that we have work to do with installer education. We were able to fix a code issue before the house was sold. This showed we need greater outreach to subcontractors.” Additionally, the outdoor lighting did not get installed (“I blew the appliance budget on the Viking range,” Ahrens admits) and plans for the addition of a fire pit were scrapped when landscaping wrapped up early.

When the Propane Inspiration Home was completed, MOPERC donated $1000 to the Share the Harvest charity in Leathers’ name. Once the photo and video work wrapped up, the Council began to consider how to extend the lessons learned on the project.

WHAT’S NEXT?
Results of the Inspiration Home project are still being evaluated, but have suggested a modified approach involving homebuilders. “We certainly know more today than we did before,” Ahrens said.

Currently, MOPERC is developing a new outreach called Propane HomePro. “We intend to generate the same assets and visibility as the Inspiration Home, but with more developers throughout the state and with a better handle on costs. We also will add an education component to reach the HVAC and installer techs who have such an important role in the safe use of our product.”

Through Propane HomePro, developers would receive financial assistance when installing certain appliances in a spec or model home. “We believe we can extend our resources by focusing on ‘last mile’ installations—those appliances that give a residence a ‘wow’ factor beyond the core load,” Ahrens said. “If the homebuilder is already installing a propane furnace and water heater in a showplace opportunity, we’d assist with an upscale stove or range, outdoor grill, a beautiful fireplace, and, most of all, a standby generator.”
MOPERC all propane home lake of ozarks provides security savings reports BPN 012020
Interest is growing in propane generators, he said, but the economics of installing standby power at an all-electric home are sometimes a problem. “Getting a generator on a customer wish list early will help to drive more propane appliances throughout the home,” Ahrens said. “With rolling blackouts in California, or with winter storms knocking down electric lines here this winter, we have a compelling case for propane generators. However, we need to tie them to initial construction rather than a later add-on.”

MOPERC will once again promote Propane HomePro projects with open houses and advertising including a dedicated web page for the sites including promotion of the homebuilder and appliances. The Council will also include an HVAC education component for the homebuilder and subcontractors, part of the offer of free training to all homebuilders who sign up to receive Propane HomePro information.

“Whether a homebuilder is participating in a propane build now or could be later, there is value in reaching contractors with proper installation and compliance information,” Ahrens said. “If they sign up to receive our emails, that qualifies them as a Propane HomePro and makes them eligible to receive classroom compliance training at no cost. This also develops a list of potential candidates for future projects.”

Missouri has a state regulation that requires compliance training for anyone who handles, stores, transports, or installs propane or propane-use equipment. Currently, MOPERC teaches about 600 HVAC students annually, so the training apparatus is already there. Ahrens sees Propane HomePro as linking the state compliance training with PERC’s online resources to ensure that more installers are knowledgeable about important aspects of propane installations, from appliance placement to piping.

“The marketing benefits of the actual propane build are one important aspect, no doubt,” he said. “But the chance to get in front of homebuilders with propane benefits and safety is a real opportunity.” Once the program gets rolling, Ahrens sees the opportunity for special hands-on teaching opportunities at the build sites such as generator piping and placement, underground tank installations, and more.

Initially, builder compensation packages were estimated from $25,000 to $50,000 per project. “The Propane HomePro builder budget is $100,000, so we are hoping to work with two to four contractors this year. We have three right now that will probably exhaust the budget, but they are nicely spaced across the state and will have different levels of homes, which is a plus.”
MOPERC all propane home saves money, environment reports BPN the LPG industry leading source for news since 1939
Promotion costs will mirror last year’s Inspiration Home project. Providing tech education is another expense, but that cost has not been determined yet. “Ideally, we’d work interested techs into our existing schedule to eliminate the need for additional classes, but we are prepared to ramp this up as necessary,” Ahrens said.

2020 HOMEPRO PARTNERS
Missouri’s marketers have already been active in contacting local homebuilders who may be interested in a Propane HomePro partnership.

One potential new partner is Joplin, Mo.-based TR Smith Construction, which works closely with Charlie Neidert, president of Neosho, Mo.-based Al’s Gas. “There’s no need to sell them. They’ve always been pro-propane,” Neidert said. “We need more builders like them.”

Julie Smith, a co-owner of TR Smith Construction along with her husband, Tony, said propane is a key component of their personal home and they believe in it strongly enough to promote propane homes to their customers. “I wouldn’t live in an electric home,” Smith said. “With the Missouri cold that comes about every winter, gas heat provides a thorough and much higher quality of warmth than electric heat in our climate.”

She acknowledges many contractors are attracted to building electric homes because of potentially lower building and installation costs. “They aren’t saving their homebuyers any money in the long run, though. The cost of electricity and gas never go away during the time of home ownership,” Smith said. “Over time, the utility bills will speak for themselves and propane will save them money. We want our buyers to be happy with their home long-term and an energy-efficient home running on propane brings about not only happiness, but also pride.” Of the 30 to 40 homes TR Smith builds each year, 90% of them are custom homes. As a result, Smith spends plenty of time with each buyer discussing the attributes they want in their home. “With a little education, customers quickly become believers in a propane home as the way to go,” she added. “Energy efficiency is a trend that consumers are really interested in. Propane excels versus electric in energy efficiency and cost savings.” Smith also noted that the various rebates available from MOPERC as well as the national PERC are added cost-saving incentives for building with propane.

Larry Eggen, a manager for MFA Oil in Warrensburg, Mo., would like to see a propane-fueled model home in his area. “People need to see the propane-powered features for themselves. This is the ‘Show-Me’ State, after all,” he said. “Once people experience the propane-powered home firsthand, they’re really sold. Once they have used a propane dryer, you couldn’t give them an electric dryer.”

Eggen’s son-in-law is a builder in the Warrensburg area and is in the process of building a subdivision that will be a gated community of $600,000 to $700,000 houses with many features fueled by propane. “With proper training, propane appliances and the piping are very easy to install,” Eggen said. “I’d like to see more plumbers and other technicians get the training and experience so that they feel they are able to install propane-powered features in upscale homes. I think all too often some plumbers talk customers out of propane features because they don’t like to install the gas lines or just don’t have the experience. It is time for us to help them to get more interested in doing it.”

Eggen acknowledges there is a fear of gas among some consumers. “I hear it from some customers, but frankly as a volunteer firefighter, the fire department goes to more electric fires than gas fires,” he explained. “We need to tell our story [by providing customers an] opportunity to visit and experience propane-powered homes throughout the entire state. I think once people experience features like gas logs, the true quality of gas heat from a furnace, and heated water from a tankless water heater, they will be sold.” Eggen believes a few model homes should always be accessible within an hour of high-growth areas, beyond the natural gas lines. These could do wonders for consumer buy-in to the benefits of propane. “We could really add a lot of propane load for our retail companies by getting people out to walk through a propane-powered home.”

A third potential partner in northern Missouri is adding homes in a rural setting that is perfect for propane. “We haven’t closed the loop yet, but we are interested to talk to the builder about partnering with us to highlight the benefits of his proposed development,” Ahrens said. “This will give us a nice, diverse inventory of images, testimonials, and assets.”

MAKING THE CONNECTIONS
While MOPERC develops its Propane HomePro program, the Council continues to work closely with Sedalia, Mo.-based Callis Marketing to guide the next phase of the “Welcome Home” outreach and education campaign.

“We’re keeping the ‘Welcome Home’ theme in our state marketing,” said Ahrens. “This is in addition to PERC’s ‘Propane Can Do That’ theme line. We don’t want to overthink it, but combining the aspirational message plus the national tagline seems to make sense for the residential market.”

Cliff Callis, president of the marketing firm, confirms that the initial Propane Inspiration Home generated a variety of creative assets that could be incorporated into videos, magazines, social media, and other means that tell the propane story for those who did not visit the home. “We are moving forward with a very flexible plan. We can fine-tune our approach as we move forward and learn more about what is working and what is not with the marketing efforts,” Callis said. Regardless of details, he sees the Inspiration Home project and its successor program as WIN-WIN-WIN opportunities:

• CONSUMERS WIN with a nice new propane-powered home.
• BUILDERS WIN with financial support, free training, and installation support. They also get help to sell the home.
• RETAIL PROPANE MARKETERS WIN with good new customers and increased propane load.

Ahrens concludes that the bottom line is to add more propane homes and a greater variety of burner tips statewide. “About 9% of the state’s homes already use propane as their primary heating source. We’ve lost gallons to electricity and natural gas, like everyone else, but have a great base from which to grow or retake market share.”

MOPERC’s residential efforts are supported by the findings of a recent survey of appliance rebate customers. The survey found that propane customers are loyal and knowledgeable about the product. “It wasn’t part of our messaging before, but we heard that our current consumers understand that electricity is not inexpensive. The average Missouri kilowatt/hour cost is about twice the average cost of propane on a Btu basis,” Ahrens said. “They also are not happy with the lack of heat generated by ground-source heat pumps.”

“Missourians are looking for clean, reliable, efficient, affordable, safe, and versatile energy. We check all those boxes—every single one—but we need to be aggressive in demonstrating exactly what those benefits are.

“Because of lessons learned from the Propane Inspiration Home, we can take the next steps to address these unmet needs. Propane HomePro is our next iteration, and a year from now we will know even more. But the bottom line is that nothing sells the whole-home benefits of propane better than a beautiful new residence that highlights propane throughout.” — Pat Thornton

Plumbing/HVAC Instructors Can Win Free Training Getaway

(Janauary 10, 2020) — Building on last year’s Train the Trainer success, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) will be offering four in-person events in 2020 to train instructors how to teach the Overview of Propane Distribution Systems for HVAC and Plumbing Professionals course. Up to 80 winners will be selected to help get propane curriculum into more classrooms across the country.
The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) sends 80 HVAC plumbers all expenses paid to Train the Trainer trips reports BPN propane industry leading source for news since 1939
If you know someone who teaches or trains plumbing and HVAC professionals, nominate them to win a free trip and training, including airfare and hotel), to one of the locations below:

• Nashville, TN - April 8-9
• Ocean Springs, MS - May 18-19
• Chicago, IL - June 1-2
• Phoenix, AZ - June 25-26

The course taught during this special training event provides plumbing and HVAC instructors, students, and propane professionals with the information they need to safely work with propane.

You don’t have to enter the sweepstakes to get this free course. Access to the instructor manuals, videos, quizzes, and everything else you need to put propane in your classroom is available online at propane.com.

House Democrats Propose Halt To Production on Public Lands

(January 10, 2020) — Positioning their climate agenda for 2020, House Democrats in December introduced sweeping climate legislation that calls for halting fossil fuel production on public lands for a minimum of a year. The bill is to prepare the U.S. for drastic cuts in output in order to meet so called “warming pollution” goals.
Natural Resources US House Committee proposes net zero greenhouse gas emissions on public lands by 2040 reports BPN the propane industry leading source for news since 1939 011020
As reported by The Hill, the legislation from House Natural Resources Committee requires the Department of the Interior to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions on public lands by 2040. “The Trump administration is handing out drilling and coal mining leases like candy, and no thought is ever given by this administration to the climate change impacts,” asserted Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a bill sponsor and chairman of the committee. “Our bill is about what’s right for the whole country and not just for polluting industries.”

He outlined that a yearlong moratorium on fossil fuel production would give the Interior Department time to assess how to meet the 2040 goal of net-zero emissions. The legislation also sets targets in five-year increments the department must meet. Interior would be barred from issuing new leases until target compliance was met.

In addition, the proposal would ratchet up the royalties paid by energy producers that drill and mine on more than 600 million acres of public land, raising fees from about 12% to 18%. The increased costs would be used to create a transition fund to assist communities largely dependent on the fossil fuel industry, for land reclamation,

environmental cleanup, and retraining of workers. Grijalva noted that the larger royalties would serve as “fees that big oil, and not taxpayers, will have to cover.” Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) commented that the bill would curb U.S. emissions, specifically identifying methane she said was being leaked by oil and gas operators.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, published by BPN available by subscription)

Superior Plus Announces The Acquisition of Western Propane Service

TORONTO (January 9, 2020) —  Superior Plus Corp. announced that it has acquired Western Propane Service with locations in Santa Maria, Ventura, and Lebec, California.
Superior Plus Acquires Western Propane Service in Southern California reports BPN the LPG industry's leading source for news since 1939 010920Founded in 1988, Western Propane Service is an established independent retail propane distributor serving approximately 6,000 retail and commercial customers in Southern California.

“The acquisition of Western Propane Service is Superior’s first tuck-in acquisition in 2020 and its second retail propane acquisition in California. This acquisition demonstrates our commitment to growing our retail footprint in California, which is the largest retail propane market in the U.S.,” said Luc Desjardins, Superior’s President and CEO.

About Superior Plus Corp.: 
Superior Plus consists of two primary operating businesses: Energy Distribution includes the distribution of propane and distillates, and supply portfolio management; and Specialty Chemicals includes the production and sale of specialty chemicals.

For further information about Superior Plus, please visit www.superiorplus.com.

(BPN's May 2018 issue incuded a profile of Western Propane Service.)