The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 15, 2014

Beckley police convert four cruisers to propane

Beckley Police Department is joining other government agencies around the state in a move toward a cleaner, cheaper fuel — one that’s produced domestically.

Beckley Chief Timothy Deems announced Tuesday that four of the city’s Ford Crown Victoria cruisers have been converted from gasoline-only engines to engines that can also run on propane auto gas.

Deems said propane fuel saves 30 to 40 percent in fuel costs when compared with gasoline.

“If you’re expending two tanks a week in a cruiser, you’re looking at about 40 gallons a week,” he said. “At a dollar a gallon savings, that’s $40 per car per week in savings.

“It’s a start, and I think it’s something we can look at down the road as an alternative to the high price of gasoline.”

The cars were converted through a grant via the U.S. Department of Energy’s American Recovery and Reinvestment and was facilitated by former Beckley Mayor Emmett Pugh last February, said Deems.

“There was some money available, and we looked into it, to see who else was doing it,” said Deems. “In researching this, we found that all around the country, a lot of police departments are converting their cars.”

More than 90 percent of American propane supplies are produced domestically, and there are 52,000 propane auto gas refueling stations and 17 million propane powered vehicles, said Deems.

Beckley’s first propane refueling station has been built by BP at the Little General on Harper Road and is expected to be ready for use in the next couple of weeks, Deems stated.

The initial cost of $7,000 to convert one cruiser will save money long-term, according to the chief.

Propane (the same gas used in grills) is not only $1 cheaper per gallon, on average, it also increases engine life and reduces maintenance concerns and costs, he added.

“We will research the possibility of converting more of our vehicles to propane auto gas in the future,” said Deems.

Officers were somewhat cautious at first, but after several weeks of driving the converted cruisers, Deems said, the police are satisfied.

“The flash point of propane is actually higher than gasoline,” he added. “There was a little bit of apprehension at first, but once the officers were able to drive them ... I think there’s more reception to it now, and they realize the cars run better.”

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com

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