Founded 15 years ago and chaired by Lake Charles businessman Oliver Richard, CleanFuel, with 40 employees in Michigan, Lake Charles and Georgetown, Texas, has until recently been focusing on ethanol marketing, but Richard said recently it is moving big-time into providing propane-burning engines.
“We have the cleanest engine in the country, according to the EPA,” Richard said.
The company’s engine certification from the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board qualify its power plant for environmental tax incentives.
CleanFuel USA’s manufacturing and research and development operation is based in Georgetown, which is on Interstate 35 about 30 miles north of Austin.
From there, President Curtis Donaldson directs the operation that is supplying 8.1-liter engines which run medium-duty trucks on liquid propane injection systems.
The company has passed the five percent share of that market, officials said.
The fuel cost is currently about $1.50 a gallon cheaper than gasoline and $2 a gallon more economical than diesel.
Donaldson said a 6.1-liter engine for lighter-duty trucks is coming soon.
The light truck market represents greater opportunity for CleanFuel USA because that market is about 13 times larger and includes such vehicles as shuttle vans and smaller commercial, church and school buses.
The engine adaptations are done at a GM supplier in Flint, Mich., and add about $11,000 to the vehicle cost.
But $9,000 of that is recouped through a federal tax credit in the alternative fuel vehicle program, and fuel savings quickly recoup the other $2,000, Donaldson said recently.
Additionally, there is a 50-cents-per-gallon tax credit for using the propane.
For truck fleets that drive hundreds of thousands of miles a year, the return can make a considerable difference in the bottom line.
CleanFuel USA currently installs about 700 medium-duty GM systems a year and 400 propane systems at Blue Bird Corp’s Georgia school bus factory, Donaldson said that number could reach 4,000 to 5,000 within five years.
At this point, the distribution system for propane and the engine cost don’t make it a practical alternative for passenger vehicles.
Propane, and ethanol, distribution system solutions are part of CleanFuel USA’s business focus.