Lenny Hernoud wants people to know: propane fuel isn’t any more dangerous than gasoline, and it’s much better for the environment.
Of course, convincing drivers to convert their vehicles to use propane instead of, or in addition to, gasoline is Hernoud’s job. He’s the owner of a Lincoln organization that advocates use of alternative fuels, Clean Alternative Fuel and Energy Nebraska.
But there’s another reason he thinks people should consider using propane as fuel for their vehicles.
“Propane is way cheaper right now versus gasoline,” he said.
CAFE Nebraska has partnered with Otte Oil and Propane in Davey to promote conversion of vehicles to propane. Otte Oil also has established four refueling stations for users of propane in Lincoln: Converse Service, 8201 N. 56th St.; Performance 66, 7000 Vine St.; H.I.S. Autocare, 7000 Van Dorn St.; and Hillis 66, 600 South St.
Jake Otte, operations manager for Otte Oil and Propane, said the company also plans to open a propane refueling station in Columbus soon. The company also has begun converting its own fleet and now has 17 vehicles that can use both propane and gasoline, Otte said.
CAFE Nebraska handles conversions for the partnership and has completed more than 20 over the past two years, Hernoud said.
He said it takes 25 to 35 hours per vehicle to complete a conversion. A conversion can cost anywhere from $4,000 for a 4-cylinder vehicle to up to $6,500 for a diesel engine vehicle.
“Just about any vehicle can be done,” he said.
Hernoud also completes conversions that allow vehicles to use compressed natural gas, though he doesn’t recommend it over propane. He said compressed natural gas conversions cost about $4,000 more per vehicle than propane conversions.
That’s largely because fuel storage tanks for compressed natural gas cost more than those for propane.
He said another reason he recommends propane over compressed natural gas is because a tank full of propane will take a driver farther than a tank of compressed natural gas.
In addition, he recommends people convert their vehicles to be able to use both gasoline and an alternative fuel rather than only an alternative fuel.
Drivers with vehicles that can only use an alternative fuel are limited by the number of places they can refuel, as there are fewer refueling stations for alternative-fuel vehicles, Hernoud said.
“The bi-fuel is the smarter way to go,” he said. “It doesn’t limit you as much.”
Otte said people wanting to convert their vehicles often can qualify for a rebate from the state, thanks to passage of the Nebraska Clean-burning Motor Fuel Development Act by the Legislature last year. The bill provides rebates to vehicle owners who want to convert their vehicles to use compressed natural gas, propane, liquefied natural gas or hydrogen fuel cells.
The bill provides those vehicle owners the lesser of either $4,500 or 50 percent of the cost of converting their vehicle.
Otte said propane fuel vehicles generate far fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline-powered vehicles and they burn cleaner, which reduces maintenance costs on those vehicles.
He said Otte Oil and Propane serves about 50 customers with alternative fuel vehicles. Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates there are 143,000 vehicles that can run on propane.
“There are more stations opening every day,” he said.