podcast

Propane School Buses: Propane Infrastructure

April 3, 2024

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Blue Bird’s Alternative Fuels Team discuss propane infrastructure, including scalability, fuel management, safety, price stability, installation, and more. They also explore the simplicity and customizability of installation configuration examples.

Transcript:

00:00:05:05 – 00:00:19:07
Speaker 1
Hello and welcome to a Bird’s Eye View. In this series, we’ll be discussing everything school bus related. From the perspective of a leading school bus manufacturer. I’m Brad Beauchamp, alternative fuels manager at Bluebird.

00:00:19:09 – 00:00:41:18
Speaker 2
I’m Steve Whaley, business development at Bluebird. We’re going to discuss my favorite topic all things propane this season. And I’m Albert Burleigh, vice president of alternative fuels for Bluebird. So let’s hop on the bus and let’s get started.

00:00:41:20 – 00:01:03:23
Speaker 1
Welcome to a bird’s Eye View. In this episode we’re going to talk about propane infrastructure. And with me I have Steve Whaley. Steve, tell us a little bit about this topic. And propane infrastructure. It’s it’s fascinating. We talked about busses and them being powered by different power sources and propane being one of them. you know, fuel in the bus is obviously very important.

00:01:03:23 – 00:01:24:14
Speaker 2
So it is. And when you talk about anything alternative, the, you know, you have to have the actual vehicle and a lot of people can overcome the making of an alternative fuel vehicle. But one of the biggest challenges for all the alternatives is how do we get this energy in the bus? and how much is it going to cost?

00:01:24:14 – 00:01:44:01
Speaker 2
How long does it take to make it all happen? And propane as some serious advantages in that, in that aspects of of of infrastructure. were able to set up a propane fueling station relatively quickly compared to other alternatives. And, so, so it works, works pretty well.

00:01:44:05 – 00:01:50:21
Speaker 1
So it sounds like you’ve got some experience here on getting that energy into the bus. Tell me a little bit about that background and how.

00:01:50:21 – 00:02:11:13
Speaker 2
You how I got started. I was, I was, I was working for a propane supplier, doing, you know, propane fleets and, getting that infrastructure in with the fleet was you know, the biggest part, because you can convert the vehicles and make it make it work. But how do you make it happen on on fueling them?

00:02:11:13 – 00:02:40:01
Speaker 2
Because, you know, gasoline and diesel are ubiquitous. You know, I mean, they’re everywhere on all the corners. But setting up the infrastructure for a fleet, behind their gate so that their, you know, drivers can can fuel is, is is a really important part. And that’s and that’s what I did. So when I would work with fleets to try and convert over to propane, we would build, you know, scalable infrastructure because not everybody turns over a fleet to a new fuel overnight.

00:02:40:03 – 00:03:00:07
Speaker 2
you do a few vehicles and you do more a few more vehicles. So your infrastructure has to be scalable. So when we start, you know, we put a thousand gallon tank on a skid. and at the end of that skid would be a dispenser. We make it look like a gasoline or diesel dispenser. So people don’t have to, you know, overcome too much change.

00:03:00:12 – 00:03:27:21
Speaker 2
It has the same kind of, you know, shape to the to the nozzles and everything else. And it’s a, fuel management system where you slide in a car or a key for making all those things the same. So it’s not a big leap to to try something new. and those, you know, were relatively inexpensive. if I’m doing a thousand gallon tank with a dispenser, I’ve got about, you know, 30, $40,000 worth of equipment in that.

00:03:27:23 – 00:03:47:08
Speaker 2
So, when I was a fuel supplier, I would look for fleets that would use enough fuel to cover my capital expense of that, that infrastructure, so that the customer didn’t even have to pay anything for that infrastructure. We just built in a few pennies on the on the gallon of gasoline, and they would get all that infrastructure included.

00:03:47:08 – 00:04:13:19
Speaker 2
And so they would, you know, help with the the preparation for that, you know, put up the crash ballads around it, you know, whatever the authority having jurisdiction in that area would require, it’s usually the fire marshal. to get it all permitted. So, to, to power one of those, you know, skid mounted stations for about 20 vehicles is the same power for a clothes dryer in your house?

00:04:13:19 – 00:04:24:19
Speaker 2
It’s, you know, two 2030 amp circuit, and it’s a five horsepower little motor, but it pumps 10 to 12 gallons of fuel a minute, 24 hours a day.

00:04:24:21 – 00:04:37:22
Speaker 1
So it sounds like you’re talking about it. A thousand gallons is a starting point. It sounds like something larger is still possible in. Tell me a little bit about scalability of infrastructure for propane. For a fleet it.

00:04:37:22 – 00:05:00:18
Speaker 2
Is once people start, you know, on, on propane busses, we, we always see them grow, so that thousand gallon tank, turns into. Oh, well, we need more. So we’ll just manifold another tank right next to it to allow for 2000 or another one for for three. And then we start moving into, you know, larger ones.

00:05:00:18 – 00:05:20:09
Speaker 2
And when you get up to, you know, say 40 or 50 vehicles is not uncommon for someone to put in an 18,000 gallon tank. and they can do that remotely and just pipe over to where the same dispenser was in your, in your pocket. It’s not uncommon to put a dispenser right next to where your gasoline and diesel dispensers are.

00:05:20:11 – 00:05:49:14
Speaker 2
And then instead of going underground, you can just move that larger tank, off and back in a corner and you don’t have to worry about it. but everything else is the same. You don’t have to scale anything else except the storage of it. so and so instead of a small, you know, 3000 gallon fuel truck that comes in and refuels your station, then you have a transport truck comes in and does 12,000 gallons, on a less frequent basis.

00:05:49:16 – 00:05:58:01
Speaker 2
But the more energy you buy in propane, the cheaper the cost is. So scaling up has its motivational incentives to do that as well.

00:05:58:03 – 00:06:17:08
Speaker 1
So. So it’s scalable. you’re talking about truckloads giving you better cost. So we’re going to talk about cost a little bit later here. But the scalability as it relates to putting in fuel in a yard right here, it’s a yard full of busses. talk to me a little bit about is it harder or easier than gas or diesel?

00:06:17:08 – 00:06:27:20
Speaker 1
You mentioned. And touched on the fire Marshal’s usually the jurisdiction talk to me about. Is it easy to put propane fuel in and expand my system in my yard?

00:06:27:22 – 00:06:53:06
Speaker 2
let’s go from one end to the other. Some some fleets, like the the city of Boston didn’t have room for its diesel refueling. So there was a diesel fuel truck that would come in and fuel 400 diesel busses every night. And when they wanted to go to propane, they wanted to make sure that they could have that same flexibility because there there just wasn’t a physical room for, for any fueling there.

00:06:53:08 – 00:07:18:13
Speaker 2
so we did we came in with, with two propane fuel trucks and filled all 400 of them every single night. So that’s a possibility, to to make it happen in some environments like that. But most folks want to have their own fuel station behind the gate that they can have control over, so that their drivers don’t have to go out to, a public place and literally bump into somebody with their, their vehicle.

00:07:18:15 – 00:07:39:22
Speaker 2
but they can do it all behind the gate and, and make it good. so there’s that option. And then there’s also the option of mobile fueling. we can actually have a fuel station, on a trailer, with its own generator, and you can take it to a parking lot or to a remote area. You talking about resiliency?

00:07:40:00 – 00:08:00:11
Speaker 2
You can take propane anywhere and and make it work. If a propane bus, for one reason or another, runs out of fuel on a route, that fuel truck can come, or a towable fuel station can come and fuel it up right there if an emergency were were to happen. But again, everybody wants to have their own fuel station behind the gate.

00:08:00:11 – 00:08:12:07
Speaker 2
And you know, we do that with all the same fuel management. So there’s transportation directors know who’s putting what fuel in what bus and how often. And they can track every gallon that goes in there, just like they’ve been doing with conventional fuels.

00:08:12:12 – 00:08:23:10
Speaker 1
But it sounds actually easier than conventional fuels for expandability, mobility. Hey, I’ve got a mobile fuel here. It’s out. It sounds actually easier than if I was to try the gas or diesel.

00:08:23:14 – 00:08:47:05
Speaker 2
It is. And on the regulatory side too, because there’s a lot of regulation on putting in gasoline and diesel because of the risk of spilling it, you know, you can contaminate the ground, you can contaminate water sources and things like that where propane can’t contaminate those things. The EPA doesn’t even regulate the installation of a propane fueling station because of that.

00:08:47:07 – 00:09:02:11
Speaker 1
So on that environmental side, on the infrastructure side, is it fair to say that even environmentally it’s easier to be able to to deal with? You’re saying you don’t have as much permit regulation, but over the long term you also have less risk? Is that is that is that a.

00:09:02:11 – 00:09:30:15
Speaker 2
Fair that is on the environmental side, it’s it’s much less risk. And, and much less expensive. But propane is, like any fuel that’s going to propel a bus, is is dangerous, just like gasoline, diesel, electric, hydrogen, all of them have that element of danger because they’re they’re powerful energy. So the, fire marshal usually has that part of the permitting.

00:09:30:15 – 00:09:53:00
Speaker 2
You make sure that the tank, the storage tank is in under a power line and has a setback, you know, from a building and all of those things. The propane supplier takes care of for you. They know this. They do this on a regular basis. They’re setting up these fuel tanks and they know their area of jurisdiction. They know their fire marshal, and they work with them in getting those permits for you.

00:09:53:02 – 00:10:10:08
Speaker 2
So, you know, as as you’re thinking about adopting propane, you, you know, you’re going to help with the workflow of how you want it to be in your own, you know, parking area and setting it up for the, you know, making sure that you’re not bottlenecking anything else but the propane marketer who does this and supplies you with that.

00:10:10:10 – 00:10:35:18
Speaker 2
infrastructure and a long term fuel contract that’s mutually beneficial for for both of you. they take care of that. And when you use their infrastructure, instead of buying your own, which 95% of the people out there do, they just use the propane provider’s infrastructure. And that provider also maintains that equipment. So, you know, if anything happens, they’re out there to fix it and make it all good.

00:10:35:20 – 00:10:46:17
Speaker 2
And they’re quite motivated to do that too, because, if that infrastructure doesn’t work all the time, then they’re not getting to sell you propane. and they want to make sure the kids all get to school on time, too.

00:10:46:21 – 00:11:07:01
Speaker 1
So let’s go down the price path now. So I know everybody’s familiar with, all the corner gas stations and prices posted for gasoline and diesel. you know, propane, auto gas being the third most popular fuel in the world for a school district or contractor. How does that how does that pricing play out? How should how should that be looked at or viewed?

00:11:07:05 – 00:11:07:23
Speaker 1


00:11:08:11 – 00:11:29:19
Speaker 2
I like to use there’s, websites out there that have, propane pricing, based on region. And, you know, the, the average price today is, is about a buck 55, but that includes the, the state and federal road taxes, of which school districts are mostly exempt from. So you can take out those taxes and back it down from there.

00:11:29:21 – 00:12:03:04
Speaker 2
You’re getting to some pretty low per gallon prices. And if the you know, if the fuel tax credits continue like they’ve been doing since 2006, that’s another $0.37 per gallon that you get to take off from that. and when people say, oh, well, we’re not a tax entity, but that’s still a check from the IRS. When you keep track of these gallons and you file your report, even school districts and municipalities and others that are tax exempt, get a check from the IRS for $0.37 per gallon used.

00:12:03:06 – 00:12:08:00
Speaker 2
which makes this, you know, sometimes even sub dollar, per per gallon.

00:12:08:02 – 00:12:22:01
Speaker 1
So while we know the bus may consume a little more on the gallon side per mile of travel, it sounds like with the prices you’re describing versus gasoline and diesel, there’s actually a pricing advantage is that is that a fair statement?

00:12:22:01 – 00:12:46:22
Speaker 2
It is. And some people get confused about, you know, okay. Well the the diesel prices this and propane prices that and the well the usage is different. And it it might be about 35% change in in energy content for for each one of them. Diesel is a great energy source. It weighs like what 7.2 pounds per per gallon liquid gallon propane weighs 4.2 pounds per liquid gallon.

00:12:47:04 – 00:13:03:08
Speaker 2
You’re not going to have the energy density in a gallon of propane that you and a gallon of of of diesel. So you’re going to use more propane than you will diesel on a, on a on a deal. But you what do you really want to look at is cost per mile. You’ve got fixed routes. You’re going to travel this many miles.

00:13:03:13 – 00:13:29:21
Speaker 2
How much does it cost per mile to to to use this fuel. And propane typically has, has been in that 40 to 50% less cost per mile than diesel. So when you do that total cost of your, you know, your infrastructure, your fuel and the time that you save in pumping 10 to 12 gallons a minute for drivers to be out there is substantially less.

00:13:29:21 – 00:13:51:10
Speaker 2
And I don’t know if it was been talked about yet, but in colder climates, drivers can start up a propane vehicle and get cabin temperature up to to temperature for the kids in a matter of, you know, ten minutes or so. Even on on cold days. So it all adds that total cost of ownership being reduced when compared to diesel.

00:13:51:12 – 00:14:17:13
Speaker 1
So, cost effective wise, it sounds like cost per mile is is very favorable. Tell me a little bit about upstream in supply. Is supply consistent. In the in the past couple of years here we’ve seen gas and diesel prices fluctuate heavily. So you know it $5 a gallon one day, $3 a gallon. six months later. How how is that work in the propane world on pricing?

00:14:17:17 – 00:14:40:17
Speaker 2
Well, one of the advantages is we are the, you know, captain of our own ship when it comes to propane. we’re not based on international events as much as the other petroleum products are. So because the United States produces more propane than anybody else in the world, we get to have a lot more stability in our pricing.

00:14:40:19 – 00:15:01:12
Speaker 2
There’s a little bit of, weather change pricing. So you might have a few cents in the winter time when there’s more use for propane and heating and such, than in the summertime. But it’s a very, very minor. We’ve we’ve been within, you know, $0.10 a gallon, you know, for years, going on in. So it’s very stable.

00:15:01:12 – 00:15:29:06
Speaker 2
And because of that stability, propane providers are able to, offer school districts. Hey, we’ll give you this infrastructure, and we’ll give you a fuel contract for 12 months, 24 months, or even 36 months. And we’ll lock in this price and you’ll know what your fuel cost is going to be for the next two, three years. And that’s such a relief for school districts who are trying to manage budgets.

00:15:29:06 – 00:15:39:17
Speaker 2
And they’ll know what their fuel cost is going to be for the next couple of years. And there’s there’s a lot of stability in that. And we can do that because our our prices in propane don’t change.

00:15:39:17 – 00:15:58:05
Speaker 1
So pricing sounds very easy to figure, you know, cost per mile. It sounds like it’s got an advantage, but pricing also seems, stable. So if I’m going to put infrastructure in I’m a school district, I’m going to put infrastructure in what would be my first point of contact. What what would you recommend, if I said, hey, I’m thinking about going down this path.

00:15:58:07 – 00:15:59:18
Speaker 1
Where do I need to get started?

00:15:59:20 – 00:16:22:22
Speaker 2
Okay. So you’ve already talked to Bloober about getting your busses specked out on propane. Okay. So so the next stop is talking with propane providers who have done what we call auto gas installation. There’s 3000 propane marketers out there in the United States. not all of them are familiar with being able to set up a fuel station for vehicles.

00:16:23:00 – 00:16:45:12
Speaker 2
So you want to use one of those that have had have done that before. So there’s national propane providers that are out there, as well as regional and local ones that have, so you want to make sure you’re talking to a propane provider that has experience in setting up these fuel stations. And when you do that, you just invite them, invite them to come in and walk the property with you.

00:16:45:12 – 00:17:15:00
Speaker 2
They’ll tell you, oh, no, that’s not the best place for it, because there’s a power line there, or it has to have this much of a setback from a building. And they’re very familiar with making that happen. So they can give you and based on the number of busses you want to start with and what you might have the potential of doing, they’ll outline a growth of scalability in, in, in providing that to and then you can, you know, do an RFP, you know, request for proposal and have others, you know, bid on that process.

00:17:15:02 – 00:17:42:03
Speaker 2
However your purchasing, you know, guidelines are for your district, to make that happen. And they’ll, they’ll submit that and they’ll submit it with, providing the infrastructure. Or if you want to, you know, go out there and buy your own, maintain your own. I, I strongly recommend starting with letting someone else take care of it first. so all you and they provide all the training necessary for drivers, to fuel it.

00:17:42:03 – 00:17:54:07
Speaker 2
And quite frankly, drivers like it a whole lot because they don’t smell like diesel. At the end of the day. because it’s just a pop on, pop off, quick connect and, they’re on their way. It makes it super easy.

00:17:54:07 – 00:18:03:12
Speaker 1
So down that route infrastructure and actually training those that are using it to fuel the vehicle, what what’s what’s that look like typically.

00:18:03:14 – 00:18:29:14
Speaker 2
Well, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll tell you my, my fastest one I had I had something in, in North Carolina one time where they started with ten vehicles and, and I just happened to have, a thousand with a skid. so when we presented to the board at the community and they said, go. Yes. And we made it all happen, we were able to deliver that skid and and get the ballots set up.

00:18:29:14 – 00:18:48:01
Speaker 2
And we waited on the electrician to come out and wired up. It was just a 220, 30 amp circuit, and we were done within a week. now I’m not don’t don’t build that expectation. You know, it. But it was it was accomplished then. Most of the time, the longest part of the wait is getting a permit. Okay.

00:18:48:01 – 00:19:05:12
Speaker 2
And, you know, however, your jurisdiction permits in that time frame, that’s the one. So as soon as you know that you’re looking at propane busses to purchase, you want to start that process as well. but usually the infrastructure gets installed before the busses even arrive.

00:19:05:17 – 00:19:17:21
Speaker 1
So the infrastructure gets installed and the busses arrive. And now I’ve got, do is is it recommended the drivers fill their own busses? Is it something that needs attended fueling what what.

00:19:18:03 – 00:19:43:11
Speaker 2
Actually both both both are options. depending on the policies in the, you know, the workflow that you have existing now for what you’re doing with diesel. now you won’t have to get, folks to come in early and start the diesel bus up two hours beforehand just to get warmed up and get the cabin up, because it only takes 10 or 15 minutes, even in subzero weather, to get a propane bus up to temperature.

00:19:43:13 – 00:20:02:02
Speaker 2
so you have some savings there, but it’s it’s not uncommon for all the drivers to fill their propane, just like they were filling their diesel. my mother, you know, she’s 86 years old, and I drive a propane vehicle, a truck, and even she fills it up. It’s it’s, you know, you don’t have to wear gloves or.

00:20:02:02 – 00:20:05:16
Speaker 2
I know none of that personal. It’s just like doing gasoline and diesel.

00:20:05:16 – 00:20:12:15
Speaker 1
I just have the vision of you, having your mother get out of the vehicle to fuel it for you. There you go. A tent that’s attended fueling, isn’t it? The best.

00:20:12:19 – 00:20:14:07
Speaker 2
I get it to wash the windows to, you.

00:20:14:07 – 00:20:23:05
Speaker 1
Know, one. So, if I’m not in my yard, what’s infrastructure like for me using this propane bus out, let’s say, on a trip?

00:20:23:07 – 00:20:55:06
Speaker 2
That’s great. Great question. Well, the Department of Energy has an alt fuel station locator app, and I strongly recommend whether you’re doing EV or hydrogen or CNG or propane, to you download that app and have it. I use it all the time because I like I like to drive. And so you have 2700 locations nationwide that are public, the ones that are outside someone’s gate, you can have access to where you use a credit card, to, to make that happen.

00:20:55:06 – 00:21:21:19
Speaker 2
But when, when Bluebird makes its propane busses, the cool part about it is they don’t get flatbed ID to where their destination is. they’re they’re made here in Georgia and they’re going to, you know, Seattle. And they get driven there because of the infrastructure that’s available all the way through these United States. And they can make that happen.

00:21:21:21 – 00:21:44:20
Speaker 1
So infrastructure being plentiful. what what kind of things, longevity wise, do I have to consider for infrastructure? Does it am I going to have to replace it every 3 to 5 years? it sounds like the propane provider can provide the equipment, so I imagine they can swap equipment out if they need to. It’s scalable. But, let’s say I have a propane station.

00:21:44:20 – 00:21:49:15
Speaker 1
Do you? Actually, what you. My maintenance and life expectancy be on the infrastructure side.

00:21:49:17 – 00:22:13:17
Speaker 2
Since it’s a liquid, it behaves much like gasoline and diesel. So you’re going to have the same kind of, you know, a pump will eventually, you know, wear out or, you know, fittings. All all of that infrastructure’s pretty much the same as far as durability and reliability. we are mostly all above ground so that we don’t have to worry about what’s happening underground.

00:22:13:17 – 00:22:37:18
Speaker 2
Is that is the tank seeping and doing that, that, that wonderful former captain that we put in our, you know, non-motorized fuel to make it notarized, makes it very clear if there’s ever a leak at a fitting or things like that, people will smell and then it’ll their nose will be that great leak detector, and they’ll notice that smell long before it is a dangerous smell.

00:22:37:18 – 00:22:40:09
Speaker 2
That’s how pervasive the former captain is.

00:22:40:11 – 00:22:48:15
Speaker 1
So what types of, safety equipment around the infrastructure do I have? And is it different from traditional feeling?

00:22:48:17 – 00:23:16:18
Speaker 2
No, it has to that and and all of that. NFPA 38 guidelines have to apply to, to to propane. so you have, you know, crash protection set up, you have back checked valves, you’ve got that big red button, you know, that you, that you pull, you know, and hit in case there’s a leak. There’s, breakaway hoses that, that, that some fleets have have tested, to find out if it works or not.

00:23:16:20 – 00:23:47:13
Speaker 2
just like gasoline and diesel, if you, if you leave it connected and you do a drive off, that hose does break away and automatically shuts down everything to to do it on some of the new technology that we have, in, in the, in the infrastructure that uses, not a keyfob or a, or a credit card, but actually your phone where you scan the QR code at the fuel station, you scan the QR code at your vehicle, they match up, you’ve got an account set up, and, it’s it’s remote.

00:23:47:13 – 00:24:05:17
Speaker 2
It’s on top of some mountain because, you know, it has its own generator to to make it work. when you walk ten feet away and breaks that Bluetooth connection, it automatically stops. so, I mean, it’s just just wonderful new technology. It’s always developing and making it a better user interface and safer for everyone.

00:24:05:18 – 00:24:26:21
Speaker 1
So now we’ve gotten used the infrastructure safely. How do I get this thing refilled and replenished? Do I just pipe it in to the local propane provider? Or since they put it on the the actual property or, how are how are they how? I know you even mentioned something like full loads in a tanker truck. What how do I how do I get that set up?

00:24:27:03 – 00:24:28:03
Speaker 1
What am I looking at?

00:24:28:05 – 00:24:58:12
Speaker 2
All the providers of, of propane that put the infrastructure here in have telemetry on those tanks. This telemetry tells them exactly the volumetric level of the fuel that’s in there. the transportation director also has that, but it’s just just so that they can see the propane provider is always going to keep that tank full. They’re not going to let it run out, because if it runs out, that’s catastrophic for for for a fleet.

00:24:58:14 – 00:25:25:04
Speaker 2
So they’re going to keep their, you know, fuel truck coming whenever it needs, you know, it goes 80%. It goes 60% goes for it. Well, let’s get that next load in there. And as the fleet grows, that changes. That’s why they’re always monitoring that. when your fleet gets to another size and you go from a thousand gallon tank up to an 18,000 gallon tank, it’s not a fuel truck that’s just delivering 3000 gallons.

00:25:25:10 – 00:25:46:22
Speaker 2
Now, it’s a transport truck that’s delivering ten, 12,000 gallons. And it only comes as often as it needs to to replenish. But it’s not a worry of the fleet the fleet doesn’t have to worry about. Oh, I need to call them and get they’re going to be there and they’re going to take it. I’ve, I’ve had some, you know, fleets that grew so fast that they were coming daily and, and filling it up.

00:25:47:03 – 00:25:53:12
Speaker 2
And there’s no propane supplier in the world that mine’s coming daily to sell fuel. so that’s, that’s what they’re pushing.

00:25:53:12 – 00:26:09:18
Speaker 1
A lot of gallons is a good thing. They actually a good thing. So, I’ve got an island in my yard that already has gas and diesel on it. if I wanted to add an actual propane dispenser on to that island, can they live all live happily together?

00:26:09:20 – 00:26:33:16
Speaker 2
couple of options. You can put the tank remotely, but then you’ll have to cut through the concrete with piping to get there. And what some have done is that that island runway, they’ve actually put a skid mounted system with that dispenser at the end of the skid so that it’s travels the same. They can get sometimes up underneath the awning or push the awning over a little bit more.

00:26:33:18 – 00:26:42:00
Speaker 2
and do that if it’s in one lane or oh, we’re going to add more. We’ll do it in in two lanes. There’s a ton of options to make all this happen.

00:26:42:02 – 00:26:51:22
Speaker 1
So so the fill rate I’m at the dispenser and I’m filling a bus up. What should I expect it to be similar to the flow of gas and diesel when I’m filling.

00:26:52:01 – 00:27:16:03
Speaker 2
Sure. Now if you’re going to an old gas station where the pump might not be so, so powerful and you’re getting maybe 6 to 8 gallons a minute, if you’re going to a new gas station and you’ve noticed this before, too. Oh, this is going much, much faster. our propane is set up mostly with a five horsepower pump on a two, 20 and 30 amp circuit, and it’s going to go to 12 gallons a minute.

00:27:16:05 – 00:27:40:09
Speaker 2
Okay. so you’re going to be, you know, just as fast, if not faster than some of your diesel or gasoline, depending on how old those systems are. so you’re talking about minutes to fill up a 93 gallon tank on a, on a school bus? you know, even if it was all the way run down so you can get those 400 plus miles, with just a few minutes filling it up.

00:27:40:11 – 00:27:53:20
Speaker 1
So, so, you know, the district has its own propane heating for schools. Can they combine a contract with auto gas and with the other propane they’re using for building, heating and building use?

00:27:53:22 – 00:28:27:02
Speaker 2
They they can get a combined contract, but you’re going to have have to keep them separate. you can’t use the same vapor tank that’s heating the building, from a liquid, valve that’s needed on filling for, for, for propane. So they, they do need to be kept separate, but it certainly could be the same provider as long as that provider has experience in, setting up fuel dispensing for, for vehicles like they have been for, for, during heat for, for, buildings.

00:28:27:04 – 00:28:37:19
Speaker 1
So I know you mentioned that, propane provider can drop a skid. They can keep it running for you and do all the maintenance and and what if I want to do my own maintenance? What does that look like on the station itself?

00:28:37:21 – 00:29:08:19
Speaker 2
it’s it’s pretty much the same as if you were maintaining your own, you know, gasoline and diesel. It is a, a pressure fuel now. And, when I’m, when I talk about pressurized, I’m not talking about, you know, the CNG, 4000 p.s.i kind of pressures. I am talking about, you know, a 100 p.s.i on a 60 degree day, or maybe, you know, up to 200 p.s.i on a super hot day, but you’re still talking about pressures that are workable.

00:29:08:21 – 00:29:34:18
Speaker 2
and so, you know, someone who buys their own equipment for dispensing propane in a vehicle fleet can certainly do that kind of of maintenance. I just suggest people start off letting someone else do it at first, so you can watch and see the frequency of, you know, hey, I’m changing out filters, you know, for dispensing it. And we’re, we’re checking, you know, making sure that all the, fittings are working properly, making sure the shut off valves are working properly.

00:29:34:18 – 00:29:37:02
Speaker 2
And you go through those, those tests on a frequent basis.

00:29:37:06 – 00:29:45:03
Speaker 1
So you touched on CNG is propane infrastructure and CNG infrastructure similar?

00:29:45:05 – 00:30:16:23
Speaker 2
they’re sister fuels. They’re both very clean fuels. and CNG is is a great fuel. but the infrastructure to set up, compressing 4,000 pounds is very expensive. so even on a small CNG system for, for, say, 20 vehicles, we have about $50,000 of equipment for, for doing propane, you’d have 7 or $800,000 worth of equipment to do the same 20 vehicles in CNG.

00:30:17:01 – 00:30:20:14
Speaker 1
So CNG and the compression equipment required is far more expensive.

00:30:20:18 – 00:30:25:20
Speaker 2
It’s a it’s a lot of a lot of juice to, to do that kind of compression. Yeah.

00:30:25:22 – 00:30:32:21
Speaker 1
So what are you seeing on the adopters as far as feedback once they’ve taken this fuel on?

00:30:32:23 – 00:30:58:06
Speaker 2
When I see him get started on propane, it’s hard for them to go back and they want more. so it’s not uncommon for, for fleets who have started on propane to go, a 100% propane. we have, you know, introduced propane busses a little over ten years ago and with a 10% replacement rate, it’s easy for a fleet that is having success to continue all the way through.

00:30:58:07 – 00:31:30:05
Speaker 2
You know, so we have, you know, in new Jersey and in California, we have fleets that are 100% propane now because they’re they found something that worked really well. I think we’re going to have mixed fleets with EV and propane for the basic duty cycles that they have. but in some remote areas like upper Minnesota, I love Kay, who has 40 200mi² that she has to cover in her school district, and she’s 95% of her fleet is propane.

00:31:30:07 – 00:31:32:06
Speaker 2
for for making that happen.

00:31:32:08 – 00:31:42:16
Speaker 1
Steve, thanks so much for sharing everything you have knowledge wise on propane infrastructure. Very informative. And that’s a bird’s eye view on propane infrastructure.