Published on Friday, 17 June 2011
When it comes to alternative fuel technologies, hybrid, hybrid-electric, hydrogen, all-electric and bio-diesel tend to hog the spotlight.
One technology that doesn't attract as much attention is propane. This versatile, clean-burning fuel is largely ignored by the auto industry, the Canadian government and the car-buying public.
Frequently, I hear customers complaining about the high cost of gasoline, bemoaning the fact that there are no viable options (other than buying a hybrid or a diesel) in reducing their fuel bill.
Well, there is a viable option in fighting high gasoline prices — converting vehicles to propane. This is a completely legitimate enterprise; a handful of companies within the GTA provide this service for passenger and commercial vehicles.
The advantages of converting to propane are worth considering. The cost of propane is much cheaper — roughly 63¢ per litre, compared to approximately $1.20-$1.35 per litre for regular gasoline.
Over the past 12 years, the price of propane in Ontario has consistently been more than 40 per cent lower than gasoline, according to the website www.propanefacts.ca.
The supply of propane is plentiful. Canada produces eight billion litres of propane each year, 80 per cent of which comes from natural gas wells in western Canada, and the remainder from oil refineries throughout the country.
Roughly 40 per cent of the propane produced in Canada is for domestic consumption and 60 per cent is exported.
Propane boasts a well-established network of pipelines, storage, distribution points and retail locations across Canada. In the GTA alone, there are more than 400 propane filling stations and hundreds more throughout Ontario.
Propane-fuelled vehicles are cleaner burning and emit fewer carcinogens and chemicals into the environment, and propane is non-toxic and non-corrosive. It's easier on your engine and, with no build up, your spark plugs will breathe easier, too.
A propane conversion system can be uninstalled and transferred to another vehicle. Plus, propane converted vehicles do not affect automotive insurance premiums.
Why is there so much resistance to propane in Canada? Cost is a big deterrent; car owners can expect to pay between $2,950 (4 cylinder) and $3,800 (8 cylinder) for a full conversion, which takes one full day to complete.
Industry experts claim that passenger vehicles will earn that investment back after driving 18,000 kms.
In the early 1990s, propane vehicles looked as though they might take off. At that time, about 220,000 propane-powered vehicles were on Canadian roads. Today, that figure has shrunk to approximately 60,000.
It's time the Canadian government (and automobile owners) started to promote propane as an alternate fuel for automobiles.
For more information about converting automobiles to propane, visit The Canadian Propane Association website at www.propanegas.ca.