Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh to convert 30 more police cars to propane

The city will more than double the number of police vehicles that run on propane, after a two-year test of the cleaner, less-expensive fuel proved successful.

The City Council voted this week to spend $195,000 to convert 30 police vehicles to propane, on top of the 20 patrol cars that already use the fuel.

Those 20 cars are used in the police department’s North District, based on Six Forks Road, where officers have found that the propane performs just as well as gasoline, said Capt. Doug Brugger, district commander.

“It has become so commonplace here, it’s not even an issue,” Brugger said. “The guys don’t even give it any thought.”

But with propane costing less than half as much as gasoline per gallon, the cars have made a difference in the city’s fuel bill. The Raleigh Police Department has used about 92,000 gallons of propane since the test program began in 2011, Brugger said, saving about $126,000 in fuel.

In addition, the city has received a 50-cent-per-gallon federal incentive that has added up to an additional $46,000 windfall for the city, he said.

The city converted the first 10 Ford Crown Victoria patrol cars to propane starting in May 2011 and added 10 a year later. Federal grants paid the $117,000 cost of those conversions, according to the city.

Clean, cheap, U.S.-made

The federal government encourages propane in part because of the pollution benefits. Propane releases 20 percent to 40 percent less carbon monoxide and about 80 percent less particulate matter than gasoline, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Energy.

In addition, the vast majority of propane is produced domestically, reducing reliance on imported fuel.

The converted Raleigh police cars are capable of burning both gasoline and propane. The propane tanks are made of quarter-inch steel, Brugger said, making them less vulnerable to puncture than gasoline tanks.

Officers start a cold car with gasoline but switch to propane when the engine warms up and run with propane for the rest of their shift, Brugger said. In emergencies, such as a hurricane, the cars can use both fuel tanks and run for 36 to 40 hours without refueling, according to the city.

The $195,000 approved by the council is already included in the police department budget. It will cover not only the conversion of the vehicles but also installation of storage and maintenance equipment.