Propane-fueled lift trucks featured on MotorWeek

A recent episode of the PBS automotive television series showcased propane-fueled off-road equipment, including forklifts, and propane-autogas-fueled on-road vehicles.

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MotorWeek, an automotive television series that airs on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), has drawn acclaim over the years for its reviews, comparisons, news and features.  The episode that aired the weekend of December 4-5, 2010 featured propane-fueled off-road equipment, including forklifts, and propane-autogas-fueled on-road vehicles. 

Industry expert Brian Feehan, vice president of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) appeared in the program.  In his segment, Feehan said, “We now use liquid injection technology on a lot of our new OEM products, as well as vapor systems that are still available today for some of the aftermarket systems that we see.  Propane is about 30% less expansive on a per gallon basis than gasoline on a national average.  So, fleets, if they want to be green and sustainable, have the opportunity with propane to be green and sustainable, but at the same time have a cost effective alternative fuel solution.”

While Feehan had a moment in the spotlight, it hardly scratched the surface of propane-fueled lift trucks.  So, Modern caught up with Feehan to find out more.

Modern:  Tell us more about PBS’ MotorWeek program.
Feehan: The long-running PBS program MotorWeek has profiled vehicles that operate on propane autogas frequently in the past, and in fact, several of those episodes can be found on the Clean Cities portion of the Department of Energy’s Web site: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/videos/type/Propane. Clean Cities is a Department of Energy program with a network of about 90 coalitions that work to increase U.S. energy security by supporting decisions at the grassroots level that decrease petroleum consumption. Several of those episodes were featured as Clean Cities Success Stories.

What’s exciting about the latest MotorWeek episode is that it covered both commercialized propane-fueled off-road vehicles, like forklifts, along with on-road vehicles that operate on propane autogas, like fleet trucks. The episode, which was a MotorWeek Alt Fuel Spotlight, showed that in either application, those vehicles are high performers, and that refueling is easy due to a readily available infrastructure.

Modern: What is the percentage of warehouses and DCs in the U.S. are using propane powered lift trucks? 
Feehan: Propane-fueled forklifts have been a materials handling mainstay for years in U.S. warehouses, distribution centers and factories. PERC estimates that propane fuels approximately 670,000 forklifts in those types of facilities. There are many reasons for this, and one of the most important is performance; propane-fueled forklifts maintain consistent, 100% power throughout operation, a crucial factor when it comes to maintaining throughput.

Modern:  What are end users requesting?
Feehan: Owners and managers of warehouses and distribution centers are demanding robust equipment, reliable service, good value, and perhaps most of all, sound economics.

Modern: Regarding economics, are there benefits associated with using this fuel to power lift trucks? 
Feehan: The [economic impact of propane-powered forklifts] was enhanced by the December 2010 passage into law of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Authorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, which included a propane fuel tax credit of 50 cents per gallon through December 31, 2011, and retroactive to 2010. This helps make propane a cost-effective forklift engine fuel for owners and managers of warehouses and distribution centers.

Modern: Are there other benefits associated with using propane-powered lift trucks?
Feehan: The performance characteristics of propane-fueled forklifts are substantial.  Since they maintain 100% power throughout operation, there is no slowdown as a shift progresses, which can be crucial for owners and managers of warehouses and distribution centers who are seeing orders increase. Plus, they offer faster ground speeds than forklifts that operate on other fuels and power technologies.

Modern: What do you anticipate in the marketplace?
Feehan: Based on conversations with multiple industry constituents, PERC anticipates unit sales growth for forklifts of all fuel or power types, including propane-fueled models, in 2011

Click here to watch the full Motorweek episode.
http://video.pbs.org/video/1704544184


About the Author

Lorie King Rogers
Lorie King Rogers, associate editor, joined Modern in 2009 after working as a freelance writer for the Casebook issue and show daily at tradeshows. A graduate of Emerson College, she has also worked as an editor on Stock Car Racing Magazine.

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