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  #1  
Old 05/21/08, 07:48 PM
Formerly 4animals.
 
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Propane Powered Truck?

With rising gasoline costs, and alternative fuels on my mind can someone tell me about propane powered vehicles? I have seen a lot of Ex-government trucks on eBay and such for sale that run on propane. What are the advantages and disadvantages of running propane? can you come out ahead on rising fuel costs by running it?

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  #2  
Old 05/21/08, 10:11 PM
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Engines last very well on propane. Propane gets less fuel mileage, but on other hand it can withstand higher compression ratio so that makes up some for the mileage.

Propane vehicles are usually run as fleet vehicles and company that owns the fleet does its own fueling or contracts with somebody that does. Do you have a service station that sells propane as a motor fuel. They arent supposed to fill propane vehicle without charging road tax on it so your local guy that fills BBQ tanks may not fill it. Personally I think it would be a big pain in the rear to find fueling stations and you have to realize propane and natural gas are going to rise in price to match the other fuels. Everybody likes to poke the consumers wallet as much as the market will allow.

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  #3  
Old 05/22/08, 12:47 AM
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Arkansas
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Don't get too far from the fuieling point. It is not easy to to find a place that will refule you. Your propane coumpny would do it but it may not be open on weekends or holidays or at night. If you buy one you need to be at home once a day to fill your tank yourself. You will need to have a pump instaled to fill your tank without bleading it into the air other wise you won't get a full tank. In the winter you will have trouble geting it to start and warm up but then it will run find when it is warmed up.

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  #4  
Old 05/22/08, 08:39 AM
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: North Florida
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If you buy one you need to be at home once a day to fill your tank yourself.
Maybe I'm reading this wrong but are you trying to say you have to fill up ever day?
My dad had a 77 ford e150 with a 300 cu. in. propane van, was a old phone company van. I don't know the MPG that it got but it had to be 15-20 MPG because he would drive all week on a 30 gal tank. He would just carry a 5 gal BBQ tank for it if he ran out some where that they didn't have fuel. The big plus is the motor last a long time. The van had 350,000 miles on it when the odometer stop working and my dad drove it another 5-6 years before the Trans. started acting up so the van had to have close to 500,000 miles on it and i can tell you this the phone company may have taken care of it but for my dad it was just a old work truck, never change oil just add it.

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  #5  
Old 05/22/08, 08:52 AM
Rockin In The Free World
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,058

I was considering purchasing a propane-only (as opposed to dual-fuel) pickup not so long ago - from what I know :

- propane burns cleaner so engines tend to last longer
- finding propane for a vehicle can be anywhere from difficult to impossible
- where I'm at, propane vehicles qualify for a purchase tax exemption
- the propane system itself must be inspected every so often
- here, a propane tank can only be used for so many years (10 or so), after that, you must replace the tanks, and vehicle tanks are expensive
- propane is cheaper than gasoline, but a vehicle will go less distance on a gallon of propane vs a gallon of gasoline
- propane is probably cheaper overall when compared to gasoline, but by how much I don't know

Odd that propane never really became popular in the public sector.

.

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  #6  
Old 05/22/08, 09:56 AM
In Remembrance
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: South Central Kansas
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I was first exposed to propane powered engines in the mid 1960s. In the 1970s I worked for a propane dealer during seven heating seasons. I was around propane tractors, cars, pickups, trucks, and oilfield engines during that time. I have owned several propane powered pickups myself and farmed thousands of acres with propane tractors. I attended a two day school to learn vehicle conversion and converted several after having attended.

Having given what might be considered my credentials on propane I would like to say that some of the information given is inaccurate and some is right on the money.

One big downside to propane is that the tank or tanks take up considerable cargo space. Another as was pointed out is the fueling access aspect. My father and I owned our own nurse tanks to fuel out of and I also had access to the dealer trucks as well. I disagree about needing a pump to fill a tank. Vapor can indeed be bled off to give the liquid space to fill the tank. No, you don't fill the tank completely full so that may have been the reason for the comment in another post. I currently fill 20# and other bottles all without the benefit of a pump. It is a quick process if the bottle is completely empty when starting the fill.

Engines last much, much longer. After 100 hours of operating a propane tractor the oil will look cleaner than after 5 hours in a diesel powered one. I have seen hone marks still on the cylinder walls of an engine after 30,000 miles of propane driven miles (burned a valve, this before rotators and hardened seats).

Another benefit is that when you start a cold propane engine it runs rather than spitting and sputtering like a gas engine does while trying to find the right choke setting.

When a gas engine sets unused for a long time the carburetor gaskets tend to dry out so an engine runs rough until the gasket swell from the fuel. With propane you are good to go.

The biggest difference in fuel mileage with the pickups I owned was 2 mpg less with propane. There are simply less BTUs in a gallon so it doesn't go as far. I rebuilt an engine specifically to use with propane and narrowed that to 1 mpg for a Chevy 350. I used high compression and a special camshaft and the vehicle actually had more power on LPG than on gasoline (duel fuel).

Back in the days I owned propane vehicles the road tax was 7¢ LPG, 11¢ gasoline. LPG at the time was less than 50¢ per gallon +tax, which was cheaper than gasoline after the fuel mileage difference figured in.

I moved and didn't have easy fuel access so stopped running LPG pickups. If I could get a hold of the right LPG carb I would now convert a '49 Chevy 6.

I can't give you current cost comparisons on LPG and gasoline, sorry. I expect it would depend a great deal on what you have to pay for LPG. It is still around $1.60 per gallon where I live. That would put it about $2 per gallon with tax added in. I can't imagine that it wouldn't be cheaper to run LPG than gasoline. There is still the cargo space issue and with me driving a small Ford Ranger that gets good mileage I don't see a switch coming.

I'm not familiar with current LPG carburetors and regulators so can't give you any help there.

In the days of distributors they needed to be modified to operate correctly for LPG. With electronic ignition I'm not sure how that would need to be done.

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  #7  
Old 05/22/08, 10:37 AM
Rockin In The Free World
 
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Is that common to mount the tank(s) in the cargo area? My knowledge of propane is limited, and I've only seen trucks/vans with tanks mounted underneath the vehicle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Windy in Kansas View Post
... One big downside to propane is that the tank or tanks take up considerable cargo space....
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  #8  
Old 05/22/08, 10:47 AM
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: North Florida
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i was wondering the same thing. The van my dad had the tank was under the van.

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  #9  
Old 05/22/08, 11:21 AM
In Remembrance
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: South Central Kansas
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There are more tank configurations available today which allow easier under truck mounting of them. One can often find used tanks that work well for cargo mounting usage to cheapen the installation costs. Way back when vehicles didn't get as good of mileage larger tanks were also installed to allow more distance. I think the ones I had were of 56 and 26 gallon water capacity. Laws may now also required under bed mounting but I'm not aware of such.

While I was still working for the dealer tanks became available that fit over fleetside bed fenders. Looked nice and left most of the cargo area still available for hauling. The BIG downside was that due to the diameter of the tank the top portion of the fender had to be cut away. Few are willing to do that.

Auto trunk mount tanks and some truck under bed tanks used three small tanks manifolded together to conserve space. We never had any in our dealership area, but we were always told they were a pain to fill as the tanks had to be given time to equalize thus requiring more time to fill.

I don't know current laws about propane tanks, etc. but about the only thing we had to worry about for installations was the line from the tank to the regulator. Small diameter steel braided hose was probably the safest at the time and most desired.

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  #10  
Old 05/22/08, 07:12 PM
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Arkansas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Windy in Kansas View Post
I was first exposed to propane powered engines in the mid 1960s. In the 1970s I worked for a propane dealer during seven heating seasons. I was around propane tractors, cars, pickups, trucks, and oilfield engines during that time. I have owned several propane powered pickups myself and farmed thousands of acres with propane tractors. I attended a two day school to learn vehicle conversion and converted several after having attended.

Having given what might be considered my credentials on propane I would like to say that some of the information given is inaccurate and some is right on the money.

One big downside to propane is that the tank or tanks take up considerable cargo space. Another as was pointed out is the fueling access aspect. My father and I owned our own nurse tanks to fuel out of and I also had access to the dealer trucks as well. I disagree about needing a pump to fill a tank. Vapor can indeed be bled off to give the liquid space to fill the tank. No, you don't fill the tank completely full so that may have been the reason for the comment in another post. I currently fill 20# and other bottles all without the benefit of a pump. It is a quick process if the bottle is completely empty when starting the fill.

Engines last much, much longer. After 100 hours of operating a propane tractor the oil will look cleaner than after 5 hours in a diesel powered one. I have seen hone marks still on the cylinder walls of an engine after 30,000 miles of propane driven miles (burned a valve, this before rotators and hardened seats).

Another benefit is that when you start a cold propane engine it runs rather than spitting and sputtering like a gas engine does while trying to find the right choke setting.

When a gas engine sets unused for a long time the carburetor gaskets tend to dry out so an engine runs rough until the gasket swell from the fuel. With propane you are good to go.

The biggest difference in fuel mileage with the pickups I owned was 2 mpg less with propane. There are simply less BTUs in a gallon so it doesn't go as far. I rebuilt an engine specifically to use with propane and narrowed that to 1 mpg for a Chevy 350. I used high compression and a special camshaft and the vehicle actually had more power on LPG than on gasoline (duel fuel).

Back in the days I owned propane vehicles the road tax was 7¢ LPG, 11¢ gasoline. LPG at the time was less than 50¢ per gallon +tax, which was cheaper than gasoline after the fuel mileage difference figured in.

I moved and didn't have easy fuel access so stopped running LPG pickups. If I could get a hold of the right LPG carb I would now convert a '49 Chevy 6.

I can't give you current cost comparisons on LPG and gasoline, sorry. I expect it would depend a great deal on what you have to pay for LPG. It is still around $1.60 per gallon where I live. That would put it about $2 per gallon with tax added in. I can't imagine that it wouldn't be cheaper to run LPG than gasoline. There is still the cargo space issue and with me driving a small Ford Ranger that gets good mileage I don't see a switch coming.

I'm not familiar with current LPG carburetors and regulators so can't give you any help there.

In the days of distributors they needed to be modified to operate correctly for LPG. With electronic ignition I'm not sure how that would need to be done.
I agree with you on all that you post. I have used propane to poower trucks tractors and other equipment. Yes You can bleed the vapor off and let the liquid in but some people will cay this is dangerious and should not be done. I disagree if you use the proper ssafty percautins that we were taught. But not everybody is taught to use the same precautions. That is why I sugested a pump.
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  #11  
Old 05/22/08, 07:48 PM
In Remembrance
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: South Central Kansas
Posts: 11,072

I understand better where you are coming from about the vapor and bleeding. Safety first for certain.

We had a good example of lack of it in our area when a tractor and nurse tank burned completely. A guy decided to light a cigarette while fueling the tractor and bleeding off the vapor. The vapor caught fire and of course was burning the vapor as quickly as it came out of the tractor tank. The guy panicked and drove off pulling the nurse tank as he did so in order to keep the fire from the nurse tank. HOWEVER that broke fitting off and dumped even more fuel causing more fire. He did have enough calm to unhook the nurse tank and drive away from the whole burning mess. All over the need of a fag.

The little John Blue pumps which operated like a steam engine were sure nice to use.

Sorry if I came on too strong.

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Old 05/22/08, 09:25 PM
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Arkansas
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You didn't come on too strong but here you have to ask yourself are they trained to do that if not then you make a point of making it as easy as posible for them.

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  #13  
Old 05/23/08, 02:26 PM
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That is some good information W I K, I would like to know also if the newer fuel injected rigs that have computer operations could be converted easy or inexpensively, and what computer programing would be needed to switch.... I spect there is somewhere information posted on the net like I desire.....lol all a person has to do is look. quite a bit of the information for propane can be utilized for an H2 unit as well, though mostly as a booster unit as no one has come up with John Lorenzen's design he had on his Ford 300 I-6 that was 100% H2, I did see that he had the propane conversion under the hood though...... so that is pace to start too..... <---yeah ramblings but it may "spark" and idea for someone else.

William

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  #14  
Old 05/23/08, 02:53 PM
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blu3duk View Post
I would like to know also if the newer fuel injected rigs that have computer operations could be converted easy or inexpensively, and what computer programing would be needed to switch....
The answer is yes, and no.

Many of the electronic FI systems switch over to a dry gasious mixture like propane without incident or problem. The CNG dual-fuel vehicles do this for example. We've had a number of them here at work.

Propane does not get you out of emissions testing and the requirement to maintain all emissions equpiment on the vehicle. This can make life very interesting when you go in for the testing.

The conversion is neither easy nor inexpensive. Though it's not the end of the world. Tanks lines, fittings and such do not come cheaply. You are on your own as far as fabrication and installation.

Do not discount the difficulties in refueling, or the expense of refueling. This is what finally stopped me on a propane conversion I was going to do for performance reasons. I'd gathered some of the bits and pieces even.
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  #15  
Old 05/23/08, 03:17 PM
In Remembrance
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: South Central Kansas
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I believe that foxtrapper has answered your question. I have not been around propane powered vehicles since electronic ignition and fuel injection came into being so can't answer at all.

Where's a nice old classic or street rod when you want a conversion vehicle eh?

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  #16  
Old 05/23/08, 03:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Windy in Kansas View Post

Where's a nice old classic or street rod when you want a conversion vehicle eh?
What about an old pick-up??
I remember my Dad had an old 66 chevy LB with a propane tank in the back.. The tank was the same length as the bed was wide..
He had a switch under the dash that he could just flip and go to gasoline,, or propane..
We had our own large tank at home that we used to fill with,, also had a tractor that used propane..
I wish he would have let me have that old truck..
Gary H.
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