Advantages and Disadvantages of Propane-Fueled Cars

by Chrys Lin

Propane can be used as an alternative form of car fuel. Car engines that run on propane fuel may require more of it to cover the same distance as gasoline; however, supporters of propane fuel say that it emits less pollutants and is overall better for the environment. A switch to propane fuel can be be beneficial or disadvantageous, depending on a person's commuting needs.

Efficiency

A vehicle requires more propane than gasoline to travel a given distance. This might be considered a disadvantage of switching to propane fuel; however, because propane fuel is in gas form, the engine actually runs more efficiently, especially in cold weather. This helps offset any extra propane that is consumed. Horsepower and torque capability for vehicles that run on propane are actually comparable to gasoline as well. However, power might be a little weaker, as propane is a less dense substance than gasoline.

Cost

Although more propane is needed to run a car the same distance as gasoline, the operating costs are less than conventional fuel. Propane is actually considered the least expensive form of alternative fuel. The costliest part of propane fuel may be the conversion of a conventional vehicle into a propane-fueled car. Conversion can cost thousands of dollars. Owners of propane-fueled cars generally would recover this expenditure through the lower maintenance and fuel costs associated with propane.

Effect on the Environment

Propane fuels systems are sealed, which means less fuel will evaporate during use or during refueling. Moreover, propane produces less ozone than gasoline does, while also containing less lead or sulfur--elements that contribute to acid rain. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, vehicles that run on propane produce less carbon monoxide than gasoline engines and also produce fewer toxins. These are all factors that make propane much better overall for the environment than conventional fuel.

Safety

Propane is a nontoxic, nonpoisonous fuel that has the lowest range of flammability of any alternative fuel. This makes it less combustible, and thus less dangerous, than gasoline.

Convenience

Refueling a propane-fueled car is similar to refueling a vehicle that runs on gasoline. This makes it a more efficient fuel to pump compared against other alternative fuels. The downside to propane-fueled cars is that they may require more frequent refuels than conventional ones. Less energy in propane means it allows shorter driving ranges. A propane tank is also heavy and consumes a lot of space.

About the Author

Chrys Lin has been working professionally in journalism since 2003. Her work has appeared in publications in the United States and parts of Asia. She currently resides in Texas and holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera butane image by silonos from Fotolia.com