Also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or autogas, propane is a clean-burning, high-energy alternative fuel that’s been used for decades to power light-, medium- and heavy-duty propane vehicles. It accounts for about 2% of the energy used in the United States. Of that, less than 2% is used for transportation fuel. Its main uses include home and water heating, cooking and refrigerating food, clothes drying, powering farm and industrial equipment.
Interest in propane as an alternative transportation fuel stems mainly from its domestic availability, high-energy density, clean-burning qualities, and it’s relatively low cost. It is the world’s third most common engine fuel and is a domestically produced, well-established, clean-burning fuel. Typically, propane costs less than gasoline and offers a comparable driving range to conventional fuel and a lower fuel economy.
Low maintenance costs are one reason behind propane’s popularity for high-mileage vehicles. Propane’s high octane and low-carbon and oil-contamination characteristics have resulted in greater engine life than conventional gasoline engines. Because the fuel’s mixture of propane and air is completely gaseous, cold start problems associated with liquid fuel are reduced.
Propane can be dispensed alongside gasoline, diesel, or other alternative fuels. It is brought to the site via a transport truck and put into onsite storage, traditionally above ground. The fueling dispenser is similar to a gasoline dispenser. The main difference is that propane is delivered to the vehicle under pressure so it remains a liquid. When the vehicle tank is full, the dispenser stops automatically, just like gasoline dispensers.