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Column: Are propane powered police cars safe?
by Larry Jacobs
Guest Columnist
May 23, 2013 06:15 PM | 2371 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Officer Larry Jacobs - Sandy Springs Police
Officer Larry Jacobs - Sandy Springs Police
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Is a propane powered police car safe? I hope so.

It’s used to fuel my Sandy Springs Police car. The SSPD has received a federal grant to convert 50 of its vehicles to run on propane. With the cost about $6,000 per vehicle for the conversion kit, this saves the department and the city a lot of money.

The average cost for gasoline is above $3.50 a gallon; the average cost for liquid propane gas is $1.50 a gallon. Since the start of the program, this conversion has saved more than $50,000 in fuel costs.

The vehicles still get the same 11 to 13 mpg, but LPG burns much cleaner than gasoline at 102 octane. Regular unleaded gasoline burns at 87 octane. The higher octane of LPG reduces emissions and pollutants. It increases the longevity of the vehicle’s engine and reduces maintenance costs.

There is a location in Sandy Springs where the SSPD has a propane fueling station. The converted vehicles still have a gas tank and still carry at least a quarter of a tank of gas, which is used to start the cars. A few minutes after warm-up, they automatically switch over to propane.

Some more interesting facts about propane include:

It was first created in 1910. It was first used in vehicles by Chicago Transit in 1958. Propane is the primary fuel source for 80 percent of transit vehicles. Propane provides 4 percent of our nation’s current energy needs. 90 percent of propane is produced domestically. Propane is an approved clean fuel alternative as defined by the 1990 Federal Clean Air Act.

Ok, back to the safety question. Is it safe? That’s what they tell us. Propane is used under low pressure, not high pressure, like compressed natural gas. There is a risk with propane, just as there is a risk with gasoline. The risk is a little different, but so are the safe guards.

Do I notice a difference in performance? Nope. I don’t notice a difference in performance and unless I am looking at the propane gauge, I can’t tell which fuel I am using.

Freebie tip – Always leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you when in traffic or at a traffic light. Reasons are: If the vehicle in front of you is broken down, you can get around it. If you notice something suspicious in the area (e.g. you are getting carjacked), you can get out of the area quickly.

Officer Larry Jacobs is the Crime Prevention Officer for the Sandy Springs Police Department. He can be reached directly at ljacobs@sandyspringsga.gov.
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