Diesel or gas? That’s typically the end of the conversation about what makes your truck run. But in these days of electric cars, hybrids, wildly fluctuating traditional fuel costs, many truck-buyers are look for alternative fuel sources for their vehicle. And what if there was a low-cost, readily available alternative that you maybe haven’t even thought of?
Can A Truck Run On Propane?
You may be surprised to hear that the short answer is: yes! Some trucks are designed specifically to run on propane, but it is possible to convert almost any truck into a propane-powered vehicle. It’s a complicated process, but there are a lot of benefits to converting to propane, including government-funded financial incentives.
Whether you are interested in purchasing a truck that runs on propane or weighing the possibilities of a DIY conversion, we have the full scoop. We can also help you find the full scope of vehicles that can run on propane fuel. Please keep reading to expand your flex-fuel knowledge.
Running A Truck On Propane: The Full Story
You may have heard about trucks that run on propane and considered converting your truck or looking into the matter further. Indeed, there are ways to run a truck on propane instead of gasoline. We’ve outlined a comprehensive guide to help you understand your options and the pros and cons of propane.
Most trucks that run on propane were designed to run on propane from the factory. They may also be bi-fuel flex vehicles that allow the driver to flip a switch for propane and to flip it back for gasoline. While you can convert a vehicle to run on propane, this often involves a lot of complications.
You may have never thought about switching to propane fuel unless you’ve come across a bi-fuel vehicle or two or met someone who owns a propane-powered vehicle. Shocking as it may seem, there are over 10,000 propane refueling stations serving nearly a quarter-million cars in the United States.
We barely consider propane because all we see are gas stations on the side of the highways. When we go to a car dealership, it is either electric, gas, or diesel. Yet, the government actually pays Americans to convert their vehicles to propane because it burns cleaner than gas.
You might also be surprised to know that propane conversions have been around for over four decades now. These vehicles are also renowned for their lower maintenance. The plugs last longer and the fuel burns cleaner, which reduces the build-up of carbon and contaminants in the engine and exhaust system.
It is believed that propane engines can last up to three times as long as a gasoline model. The higher octane allows propane engines to burn the fuel more efficiently and saves you a considerable amount of money in high-compression engines.
The heavy regulations being imposed on diesel trucks are leading many fleet owners to consider switching over to liquid propane gas (LPG) as an attractive alternative.
How Do I Convert My Truck to Propane?
Tired of paying for expensive, smelly gas or diesel? Just about any truck can be converted to run on propane instead of gasoline. The sensors, emissions, exhaust system, ignition timing, octane rating, and everything else are adaptable.
This is why you can find flex-fuel vehicles that run on gasoline or propane and can switch over at the push of a button. The material differences are that the propane tank is compressed liquid and releases the fuel into the engine as a clean vapor rather than an atomized liquid.
The air and fuel mixture is about the same. Slightly more propane is needed to reach ideal combustion ratios. The stoich ratio for gasoline is 14.7:1, while the stoich ratio for propane is 15.5:1.
The conversion kit can be installed in about 12 hours by a professional. Typically, the kit will have a new fuel pump relay, injectors, a fuel rail, a filter, a pressurized tank with a pump, and a control module. The technician will also have to reprogram the powertrain control module (PCM) in most applications.
While there may be variations, the only major differences are fuel delivery and tweaking the computer modules to accommodate the different stoich ratio. Propane is slightly more dangerous to work around, if you lack experience, because the system is pressurized.
But any do-it-yourselfer could install these parts and get the job done with a little patience and care. The LPG tanks are not any more dangerous than airbags, which can expand and cause death or injury if handled improperly.
Propane leaks are one of the major concerns. You have to ensure that all the fittings are tight and the seals are correctly fitted. But gas is also very explosive and will light up your car like a Christmas tree if you have any leaks.
Propane, itself, is colorless and odorless. By law, an additive is added to give it an off smell so that you recognize a leak before it’s too late. Studies, however, show that LPG vehicles are safer and less likely to get into an accident than traditional fossil-fueled vehicles.
And this isn’t just comparing the total number of LPG accidents to those in all traditional vehicles but in comparison to every 100,000 per 100,000. Also, remember that gasoline is the primary fuel used to make all those explosive bangs in Hollywood films. It is quite dangerous and explosive.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Propane Fuel?
The disadvantages of propane conversions are limited. You have a shorter driving range because the tanks are usually smaller than a gas tank. This is why having a bi-fuel vehicle can be so convenient. It helps you run on traditional fuels till you get to the next propane station.
Of course, that is the other drawback. While there are propane stations all over the nation, not all of the filler connections are universal. They aren’t quite standardized. If you are not aware of the infrastructure and options available to you before you convert, you may be in for a rude awakening.
The other problem with converting your truck into a strictly propane vehicle is the possibility of the cost of propane increasing. In many parts of the country, propane is already more expensive than gasoline. Since one of the main benefits of converting to propane is fuel economy, this may be a limiting factor.
While propane usually gets the same miles per gallon as gasoline, it can do better than gas on the highway and lower your overall fuel usage. However, the tanks are usually heavier than a gas tank and can reduce overall handling and affect the power-to-weight ratio. This is especially the case if you install an oversized tank for a longer range.
The EPA requires certifications of all conversions. This puts a limit on your creativity in building your own custom system.
Propane is also known to be harder on the valves. In fact, it is suggested that you don’t try a conversion on a vehicle that was designed to run on leaded gasoline because the valves are too soft.
Another thing to remember is that propane is still a fossil fuel. They aren’t making this in a lab somewhere. Although 90 percent of it is produced domestically, it is still being extracted out of the ground at the expense of the environment.
It is often being extracted by big energy companies who corrupt state governments to pass lax oversight laws so that they can frack. Fracking involves fracturing the ground where large fossil fuel deposits are trapped and has been known to contaminate underground water supplies and even to increase seismic activity, among other things.
While it may limit our dependence on foreign oil, it is also destroying our natural ecosystems. These fracking companies have also stepped up production of domestic oil by using the same methods to the point that the USA is not dependent on foreign oil and even has extra left over to export.
For these reasons, LPG vehicles hold a disadvantage to all-electric vehicles or other alternative fuels. The major setback in mass-producing electric vehicles with quick charging rates and long ranges is the formation of dendrites in the Lithium batteries, something that numerous companies are working hard to solve.
Can I Purchase Brand-New Propane Truck?
Yes, you can purchase a brand-new truck that runs on LPG or gasoline and LPG. However, most of the models only have a retrofit kit available for a conversion.
A lot of special fleet vehicles are switching over to propane because of strict EPA regulations imposed against diesel over the last few years.
In South America, bi-flex vehicles are very popular among taxi drivers. You would be amazed at how inexpensive a taxi ride is in South America.
Even in the big cities, you may only pay ten to fifteen dollars for a one-hour trip in dense traffic. In order to make the career lucrative, taxi drivers primarily rely on LPG and use gasoline sparingly.
It is fun to visit South America and to see how their gas stations operate. Instead of traditional gas pumps, nearly every station has a special nozzle for LPG fill-ups. Maybe this is the future for the US too?