Propane Autogas: The Sleeping Giant of Alternative Fuel


With reports coming out that gas prices could hit $5.00 a gallon soon, the magnifying glass has been put on alternative fuels like never before. One low profile alternative fuel being considered is propane autogas.

Everyone knows about natural gas as an alternative fuel and the controversy that surround it. However, most in America have not heard of propane auto gas. Propane is a byproduct of natural gas and petroleum, occurring naturally during domestic oil refining and natural gas processing. It is 270 times more compact as a liquid than as a gas, making propane highly economical to store and transport. Propane is also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or LP gas) and when propane used as an on-road engine fuel, it is called propane autogas.

Worldwide there are more than 15 million vehicles in using propane autogas making it the third most common engine fuel behind gasoline and diesel fuel. In the U.S. propane autogas fuels about 270,000 vehicles with 2,500 autogas fueling stations found across the United States.

Propane autogas is domestically produced, has historically cost 30 – 40 percent less than gasoline per gallon, and does not rob a car of its performance like other alternative fuels. With an octane level of 105, autogas will not take the power out of your alternative fueled vehicle.  Additionally, autogas burns cleaner than gasoline which means less maintenance and less maintenance cost for your vehicle – plus propane autogas weighs approximately 1.86 pounds less per gallon than gasoline.

Why have we in America not heard of this before? Well, for one thing the American propane industry has been in decline for some time now. Also, there is no one central big American propane company. The American propane industry is comprised of many small companies spread out across the U.S. This means that the American propane industry does not have much lobbying power on Capitol Hill and no big named spokes person, like T. Boone Pickens does for natural gas.

Tucker Perkins, chief operating officer and president of the trade group CleanFUEL USA, understands the problem but points out that things are getting better for autogas saying,

“It used to be that almost no one we would talk to had any knowledge about autogas, even though here we are as the number 3 fuel in the world. I would definitely say its better, but by no means have we reached the point where we can say the job is done. We’re not even close to that.”

Stuart Weidie is the leader of the industry group Autogas for America and it is because of Weidie and the efforts of Autogas for America that autogas is gaining some attention in America. Weidie and his group introduced the “Propane Green Autogas Solutions (GAS) Act” to Capitol Hill in 2011. The Propane GAS Act has since been introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate and currently is pending in the Ways and Means and Finance committees — A.K.A. where issues go to die.

Overall, the current state of autogas support in America is not that strong. However, as more American’s head back to work, tensions continue to rise in the Middle East, and gas prices creeping up varied types of alternative fueled vehicles are stepping into the limelight. In fact, Pittsburgh’s Yellow Cab recently announced their plan to convert 75 of their fleet vehicles to run on autogas. There is interest in alternative fuels and America should not count the propane industry and autogas out just yet.


Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison


About the Author

Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison

  • jcmarching

    what is done with excess propane now? what options to Americans have for producing more? Would that drive propane cost up or down? Can it be economically synthesized from other hydrocarbon feed stock?

  • Curly

    In the 1950s and 1960s when I was a boy many of the farmers used LPG to power their pickups, trucks and tractors. But then came the age where the government started interfering and the farmers were forced to quit using the fuel..

    • Steve

      Glad to see your comment! I grew up in the country in Texas in ’50’s/early ’60’s. Many if not most of the farmers used fuel other than gas or diesel. For instance, they had a fuel tank, with valves, mounted in the pickup truck bed just behind the cab. I always referred to this as a butane tank, though it may well have actually been LPG. It had a distinctive smell coming out the exhaust that was much different than gas or diesel. Glad to see someone else has the same recollection.

  • Dan

    I ran Propane and gasoline, switching back and forth as needed, in my daily driver car for several years, back before the gov’t made it so much of a hassle to mess with. You do need to add a caveat to your statement about losing power, though: although propane is a much higher octane, it does NOT have the same amount of energy if ran as a gas through a carburetor. You CAN make up for this, though, by having a means of advancing your timing while on propane. (105 octane = can run more advanced timing. Remember carbs and distributors? 🙂 I used an old choke cable hooked up to my distributor cap. THEN I had the same amount of power.

  • T Adkins

    Having the post office switch might be a good way to save the post office some money and put more money into a cleaner burning fuel.

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  • D Richardson

    Dan, the technology used today in the propane bifuel systems are vastly different from the ones used years ago. I have a Prins VSI system on my 2010 Ford F150 and love it. We’ve had it connected to our laptop while driving on the interstate. We would switch the fuel source from propane to gasoline and back to propane while travelling at 70 mph and the driver could not tell any difference in the performance of the engine. Also, even after 8,000 miles, the engine oil is still bright, the same color as the new oil being added during an oil change. When my engine reaches 300,000 miles, I plan on removing the heads and expect to find an engine that should be almost as clean as the day it came off the assembly line.

  • Dan Abbott

    I have a 2008 Roush F150 with dedicated liquid propane injection, and the power is every bit as good as the gasoline version. However, the mileage less — just what you would expect from fuel that has about 80% of the energy of gasoline. This is my second propane vehicle. My first was a carburated bi-fuel conversion that I did myself in 1973 — a 1964 Ford Falcon. That experience was great, partly because in the midst of the gas crisis I had a range of over 1000 between the two fuels. The engine ran great for 130,000 miles until the body completely rusted out from under me. I thought it was a great alternative at the time and can’t understand why it isn’t more widely used. It really does have all of the benefits idenfitied in the article. My truck is dedicated propane-only , but the Prins system being used by many fleets is duel-fuel and the conversion cost is pretty reasonable.

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  • Steve Yorks

    Propane has tried to become an alternative fuel in the States for many years but never caught on. Between the Feds and suppliers it has always fought an up-hill battle. Propane conversations in the early days did not help the situation either as they didn’t always perform well. Fuel mileage on propane powered vehicles is generally substantially less than its counterpart, sometimes 50% and that is another downfall. Propane burns cleaner so its better for the environment and for the internal combustion engine.
    As I have had the opportunity to run it in more than one fleet I have tracked the progress and results with no real cost advantage over gasoline. There was also no advantage in maintenance costs with this fuel either. It would be great if there were a better promise for this by-product.

    • @ Steve Yorks

      I’m not sure if you’re going by old propane technology or new, but newer propane systems are much improved over the hack-job kits of the 70’s.

      Today’s propane engines can get upwards of 90% of the gas mileage of standard petrol, but with cleaner performance for the engines and less-frequent oil changes. The cost of propane is also an important factor as this article points out.

      While I am not saying propane is the answer to our energy woes, many people who had a bad experience many years ago should consider looking at the advancements made by companies like Roush CleanTech.

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