GAS PAINS: Pump prices driving conversion to cheaper propane

‘The biggest push of our conversions now are obviously fuel savings’: Mechanic

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With drivers facing daily sticker shock at the gas station, one mechanic who can help install propane tanks in vehicles says he is getting more calls to transition to the cheaper fuel.

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“The biggest push of our conversions now are obviously fuel savings,” Ryan Reil, service manager at Downtown Auto Center in Kitchener, said Friday. “You’re getting the money back in your pocket instantly.”

It’s a procedure the shop has specialized in for almost 30 years.

Most customers have fleet vehicles. But sometimes they cater to individual drivers.

“It doesn’t take away the gasoline portion of the engine or the tank or anything like that,” Reil said. “We install an auxiliary propane tank and we take our propane system and we piggy-back it off the gasoline system.”

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His shop currently switches over about 30 to 40 vehicles each year. But he expects — and is getting — more interest, given punishing pump prices.

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“Think of a taxi cab that starts its engine at 8 o’clock in the morning and shuts it off at five,” Reil said. “If he fills two or three tanks, he’s getting half saving on each tank. And overall it’s just money back in their pocket.”

The Propane Association of Canada says such transitions can save drivers 40 to 50% of their normal fuel costs.

“Propane is substantially cheaper,” Reil said.

“Propane is right now 81 cents a liter. It has actually gone up – not to match gas prices – but it has gone up,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s ever going to reach the level where it’s going to be like the price of gas.”

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Gas is expected to be almost $2.05 a liter in Toronto Saturday.

Installing the system on a car can cost about $6000 to $6500. A truck would be about $7500.

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“Yes you’ve got to front the cost, but people invest in things all the time,” said Reil. “I’m surprised that more people haven’t caught on to this.”

Another benefit is that emissions from vehicles outfitted to run on propane are considered to be cleaner.

That does not match the zero emissions of battery electric or plug-in hybrid, which from Jan. 1 to April 1 represented 8.3% of new vehicle registrations nationally.

But propane, in Reil’s view, offers drivers another option to escape surging gas prices.

A handful of maintenance centers like his in Southern Ontario perform the switch to propane.

[email protected]

Twitter: @_ScottLaurie

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