Conservation District Pioneers Use of Propane to Propel Vehicles

What follows is an article from the McHenry County Conservation District’s spring magazine, “Landscapes.”

Conservation District recognized as an “Illinois Green Fleet”

Governor Quinn, Illinois EPA, and Chicago Clean Cities Coalition designate McHenry County Conservation District as an “Illinois Green Fleet.”

Green Fleet IL logoSince 2001, the Illinois EPA has been recognizing outstanding fleets throughout Illinois that have taken voluntary actions by implementing “American fuels” and recognizes businesses and local governments for the implementation of alternate fuel vehicles, such as natural gas, propane, ethanol, biodiesel, and electric vehicles, in their fleet operations.

“These businesses and communities are taking a smart and responsible course, saving natural resources and money at the same time,” Governor Pat Quinn said.

“I salute these businesses for the example they are setting for others across our state and nation.”

McHenry County Conservation District began installing LPG (Liquid Propane Gas) systems on five newly-purchased trucks in 2003.

Today, within the Conservation District’s fleet of 63 vehicles, 50 have the ability to be powered by alternative fuel vehicles: LPG (18), E-85 (29) and Hybrid (Electric 3).

When the remaining gasoline powered vehicles are rotated out, the District will also look into replacing them with flex fuel or alternative fuel vehicles.

Making the transition to clean fuels, such as propane, natural gas, E-85, biodiesel, and electricity, and acquiring alternate fuel vehicles, and installing refueling sites is not an easy task.

However, the environmental, clean energy, and cost benefits can be rewarding, stated Darwin Burkhart, program manager for Illinois EPA and Chairman of Chicago Area Clean Cities.

The cost savings operating with LPG averages to a 10 cents saving per mile.

A typical Conservation District fleet vehicle will have a minimum of 100,000 miles at the time it is up for replacement.

This would equate to a fuel cost savings of $10,000 per vehicle over the life of the vehicle.

Expenses are incurred by the Conservation District up front for the cost of propane conversion kits.

For example, in 2013 eight conversion kits were purchased for new replacement vehicles at $6,525 each. However, by taking advantage of the EPA’s Illinois Green Fleet rebate program, $32,000 was refunded; thereby reducing the District’s cost of conversion to $2,625 per vehicle. In 2003, the District made a commitment to invest in green energy solutions and sent its head mechanic to a two week training to so that vehicles can be converted and serviced in-house as LPG vehicles.

More recently the District out sources the installation of propane duel fuel systems that are “IMPCO Injection” to Hendrix Industrial Gastruk in Wauconda, IL.

These systems have been functioning very well with no difference in performance between propane and gas.

“We have not sacrificed performance, maintenance has remained status quo, and both repairs and cost savings are down,” said Perry Weborg Sites & Fleet Manager.

“Although it is several years before financial savings are realized, the significant factor is how this change in operations and purchasing practices will affect the long-term life of our environment. It is our responsibility to do whatever we can to reduce emissions and decrease our carbon footprint.”

The few transitions have been the reality of a reduced tank capacity (E-85 vehicles operate with a smaller tank, to work in conjunction with a second regular unleaded gasoline tank), which creates a need to refuel more often. The tank capacity of an LPG fuel tank is 21 gallons averaging a 210 mile range, compared to the unleaded fuel tank of 35 gallons with a 420 mile range.

The District’s fleet vehicles are used for a wide variety of job responsibilities from passenger vehicles, police vehicles, to site maintenance and natural resource management pickup trucks.

Employees travel throughout the 603 square miles of McHenry County to maintain over 64  Conservation District properties.

The Conservation District currently has three flex fuel filling sites (LPG and E-85), located on District property, which are also utilized by the McHenry County Soil and Water Conservation to refuel its vehicles.

According to the US Department of Energy, corn-based ethanol production and use reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by up to 52% compared to gasoline production and use.

Likewise, propane vehicles also produce lower amounts of some harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases. In addition, propane is nontoxic, nonpoisonous, and insoluble in water; while electric vehicles emit no tailpipe pollutants and electricity is a domestic energy source.


Conservation District Pioneers Use of Propane to Propel Vehicles — 5 Comments

  1. According to the latest propane prices, the above is bogus.

    Propane Prices Quick Summary (EIA Data – Price/Gallon)

    Feb 03, 2014 – U.S. Avg. Residential Propane Price, -.11, After Change = $3.89

    Jan 27, 2014 – U.S. Avg. Residential Propane Price, +1.04, After Change = $4.00

    Jan 20, 2014 – U.S. Avg. Residential Propane Price, +.10, After Change = $2.96

    Weekly propane price changes and ending propane price values are approximate.


    So how is this going to save us money?

  2. The bigger question is why does the Conservation District have 63 vehicles?

  3. I understand the importance of being “green”, but this has a cost associated to it.

    You can say this fall LPG was cheap, but this winter the price is out of this world.

    I am willing to bet these vehicles are now more costly after running this winter on LPG than regular gas.

    Not to mention since we have no ethanol plants in McHenry county, our E85 is expensive and nearly the same price as regular gas.

    When you figure the cost per mile, E85 is a waste of money.

    When tax revenue is down and the state of Illinois not keeping their funding promises.

    Why not save the tax payers money and stop pursuing these Green Hoaxes.

  4. @Klatu Barrada Nikto:

    Residential propane is the incorrect price. What you really want to look at is wholesale propane (

    Propane has been at about $2/gallon for the past year, with the big exception being the spot-price spike in January as a result of the unseasonably cold temperatures. The Conservation District will be able to lock low prices by purchasing forward contracts.

    To compare propane and gasoline, you need to compare the energy content per volume. Propane only has about 73% of the energy of gasoline on a volume-to-volume basis.

    Therefore, buying a $2 gallon of propane is about the same as purchasing a $2.74 gallon of gasoline ($2 ÷ 73% = $2.74).

    But the $2/gallon figure above does not include taxes. I do not know enough about local taxation to guess whether the Conservation District will have to pay taxes on its propane purchases and how much they will have to pay. A substantial tax could be a deal breaker.

    Propane burns a lot cleaner than gasoline, so you can expect the useful service life of the Conservation District’s propane vehicles to increase because there will be less gunk deposited in the engine.

    This is probably a fiscally sound change, but like I said the taxes could ruin the deal.

    Now, if we could get the Conservation District to trim down the number of vehicles it has in operation. . .

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