The department recently received a Virginia Clean Cities grant, which is a grant program of the U.S. Department of Energy dispersed through James Madison University and the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.
“We had discussed applying for this within the last two years, but the grant wasn’t available and it would have been cost prohibitive for us to have done it ourselves,” Police Chief Michael Mansour said. “Once the grant became available they contacted us and said they had so much equipment we could get at a minimal cost to the department to do it.”
The department will have 11 patrol cars equipped with new propane gas fuel tanks installed in the trunk compartment — five of the cars have already been converted — and an additional point of entry for the propane gas will be installed. The cars will operate primarily on propane, with regular gasoline as a back-up source of fuel when needed.
“It will be a duel-fuel vehicle wherein it can run on either one without having to be switched over by hand; it does it automatically,” Mansour said.
The cars being converted are 2006 model year and newer cars. The highest mileage of any of the cars is 60,000 miles. The grant provides that the city use the new equipment for two years and it can be transferred to other cars when the current cars wear out.
“This will convert every patrol vehicle on the road other than our brand new ones,” Patrol Capt. Scott Parker said.
The propane gas is currently costing the department $1.58 per gallon compared to regular gasoline that is approaching $3.50 a gallon. The city council approved allowing a variance this week that would pave the way for the department to place a propane filling station behind the police department near the community service area.
“We’ve taken other measures to help save on fuel and this is just one other way,” Mansour said. “We’re constantly looking at new ways to save money on fuel because gasoline prices continue to increase.”
Of the $20,000 total cost of the conversion of 11 cars to propane gas, the grant funds $10,185 and the city is providing $9,185.
The department typically replaces patrol cars at 100,000 miles. However, by using primarily propane gas to fuel the cars police officials are expecting less wear and tear on the vehicles and cleaner emissions, which should allow them to get more miles out of the car even though propane gas gets slightly fewer miles per gallon than gasoline.
“The vehicles run cleaner on propane, it’s been proven you have to change the oil less often and you can get more miles out of the car on propane than you can on gasoline,” Mansour said.
The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office has been using the propane-fueled patrol cars for a few years already with much success and other law enforcement agencies in the area are also considering the switch.