Propane Fueling Infrastructure Development
Infrastructure availability is the foundation for the acceptance of any fuel. Fleets depend on being able to locate fuel within a reasonable distance at a competitive price; propane infrastructure for vehicles is well-established across the United States.
The Alternative Fueling Station Locator allows users to search for public and private propane fueling stations. Suggest new propane stations for inclusion in the Station Locator using the Submit New Station form.
Types of Infrastructure
Fuel providers and fleets can place propane dispensers alongside gasoline, diesel, or other alternative fuels. The infrastructure needed for propane is very similar to that for gasoline and diesel. The difference is that propane is delivered to the vehicle under pressure so that it will remain a liquid. Propane is transported to the site via a delivery truck and put into onsite storage tanks, traditionally above ground. Existing propane equipment can be modified for vehicle fueling, or fuel providers and fleets can install vehicle-specific propane fueling dispensers and pump systems that were built for propane vehicle refueling. There are a variety of vehicle-specific propane fueling dispensers, which are similar to gasoline dispensers. The pump system is the most important consideration for propane vehicle refueling instructure, as a system designed for bottle gas may not be appropriate for vehicle fueling.
Dispenser Nozzles and Receptacles
A new, quick-release “Type K15” dispenser connector has entered the market and is required to be installed on all new vehicles beginning on January 1, 2020, per the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) Code 58 (2017 version). This connector allows for one-handed fueling and does not require the use of personal protective equipment such as gloves and face shield (which are required for the older style connector). The ACME QCC screw-on connector has been used since 1994 for both vehicles and bottle filling (such as for an outdoor gas grill). For vehicles with the older connector, an adapter is available so that new K15 dispenser nozzle can be used. However, people considering vehicle purchases should be sure to order the correct connector to be compatible with their planned fueling system. For more information on this and other dispenser requirements, refer to Propane Autogas Dispenser Specifications.
Codes and Safety
As with any fuel, it's important to know and consider the safety guidelines when establishing infrastructure. This includes the CSA Natural Gas and Propane Installation Code B149.5-15, which contains requirements for the placement of propane fuel systems and containers in vehicles, and the National Fire Prevention Association's NFPA 58 Vehicular Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code, which applies to the design and installation requirements of propane refueling facilities. Your local fire marshal can help with this. In addition, your local propane supplier can help determine the right amount of storage needed to adequately meet vehicle fueling needs.
Cost of Fueling Infrastructure
Fortunately, propane production, storage, and bulk distribution capabilities already exist across most of the U.S. That means establishing propane fueling infrastructure for vehicle refueling only requires the build-out of dispensing equipment—including the storage tank, pump, dispenser, and card reader at a station. Learn more about costs associated with propane vehicle fueling infrastructure.
Building a New Station: Many suppliers offer an inexpensive lease of the tank, pump, and dispensing equipment in return for a fuel supply contract. In these cases, the station owner or fleet is only responsible for the cost of equipment that cannot be removed from the site when the fuel contract expires, such as the electricity line or the concrete pad for the storage tank. This can make the upfront cost of propane infrastructure very affordable. The cost of establishing private infrastructure, as opposed to a lease, includes purchasing and installing the necessary equipment for storing and dispensing propane. This typically runs from $37,000 to $175,000, varying based on situation and need.
Upgrading Existing Retail Sites: Most propane vehicles can refuel at existing retail sites that sell propane in small volumes, such as for refilling grill canisters and mowers. Propane vehicle refueling is considered to be a "secondary" service at stations with dispensers that were built to be used for small propane refilling applications. While these stations are able to refuel propane vehicles, they have limited vehicle-specific fueling capabilities. Upgrading dispensing equipment at those sites to a retail-style metering dispenser that is dedicated (or purpose-built) for vehicle refueling and has a card reader may accommodate broader vehicle refueling and drive demand. The pump may also need an upgrade to provide a faster fill rate and adequate fill pressure for vehicles. Stations with these upgrades may consider propane vehicle fueling a "primary" service.
Visit the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) site to learn more about propane vehicle and infrastructure training.