PIRTEK franchisees come into the business from all walks of life. Sometimes that career experience can pay off in tangible ways. Gregory Shideler’s past life as a self-described “gasman” is a prime example. Before owning PIRTEK Kent and PIRTEK Seattle, Shideler worked in the propane industry where he learned about the advantages of running vehicles on that fuel instead of on gasoline only.
“Propane is considered a much cleaner fuel than gasoline, with less carbon per unit of energy,” he said. “So, when you burn it, you throw out less carbon.”
But the benefits to the environment aren’t the only boon here for the PIRTEK franchises. Propane also costs much less than gasoline, a fact that helped prompt him to outfit five of his six Mobile Service Vehicles to run on it.
“With a six-van PIRTEK fleet, we consume around 15,000 gallons a year of fuel, and I was looking for an opportunity to both save money and reduce my CO2 footprint,” Shideler said.
The savings per gallon are dramatic. In July, Shideler paid only $1.77 per gallon for propane compared to $3.39 per gallon for gasoline, a fuel savings of more than $1.60 per gallon. He estimates he will save at least $10,000 in fuel costs over the lifetime of each van.
Propane is extracted from natural gas rather than oil, making it is less expensive than gasoline. One minor downside is that propane is about 15 percent less efficient, Shideler said, which means the work done on 1 gallon of gasoline requires 1.15 gallons of propane. But even with that deficit, the savings are substantial.
To tap into those savings, Shideler had the vans retrofitted so they run on both gasoline and propane. The former is required to get the engine warmed up sufficiently before the propane kicks in and takes over. “Obviously we want them to run on propane more because we save money,” he said, adding that all six vehicles in his fleet will run on propane by year’s end.
To make the arrangement even more cost-effective, Shideler took advantage of several incentives and rebates from the government and the National Propane Association. “In Washington state, there are very attractive incentives to refitting vehicles to propane,” he said. And so, while the install ran Shideler about $5,800 per vehicle, the incentives totaled a whopping $7,000.
He added that a federal program rebates him 36 cents on every gallon he buys, lowering the cost even further. The incentives and rebates are based on propane’s clean-burning properties, which reduce greenhouse gas output by 15 percent per mile when compared to driving on gasoline.
The installers placed the 40-gallon propane tanks inside the Ford Transit mid-roof vans. It all takes a bit of extra space, Shideler said. Still, it’s only a slight disadvantage. “We built a container around it,” he said. “You can hardly tell it’s there.”
But the question remains: Where do you get the propane to gas up the vehicles? No problem, said Shideler, at least for his people. “For us, the filling station is half a mile from our shop so it’s not too bad at all,” he said.