By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Knight's Airport Limousine Service, headquartered at 390 Hartford Turnpike in Shrewsbury,? is joining the “green” revolution, making an effort to reduce its energy use and lower its carbon emissions by converting the company's Ford E-350 vans to propane autogas.
Knight's boasts a diversified fleet of over 50 vehicles, including Lincoln Town Cars, passenger vans, and mini-buses (accommodating 23 to 29 passengers) which log thousands of miles per week. With the inconsistent and often increasing cost of fuel, the management of Knight's began to research alternatives; ultimately leading them to ROUSH CleanTech, a division of Michigan- based ROUSH Enterprises.
“The shift to propane,” said Michael Hogan, president and owner of Knight's, “is environmentally responsible in so many ways. Not only does it burn cleaner and more efficiently but, because it is produced domestically, it helps improve our energy independence.”
Rousing ROUSH CleanTech conversion kits, Knight's will have eight of its Ford E-350 vans converted by the end of the month. The new kits are far more efficient than previous systems because they are centered around a state of the art fuel-management system that improves the performance of the engine, while lowering the emissions. Looking to the future, Knight's has plans to convert all newly purchased vehicles to the new ROUSH technology.
Upon researching the conversion to propane, Knight's discovered there were several hurdles that needed to be cleared. The first was that there were regulations in place preventing propane- powered vehicles from utilizing the tunnels into Boston. However, after learning of the realities of propane-powered vehicles, State Sen. Michael O. Moore, D-Millbury, was more than willing to assist in amending the regulations.
“I am pleased to have worked to facilitate a change to our state regulations regarding propane-powered vehicles in the commonwealth,” Moore said. “This change had a direct positive impact on a local small business in my district. The previous regulations were prohibitive to economic growth in Massachusetts.? These changes will not only help our small businesses succeed, but will also continue to ensure a greener environment.”
The next step in the process was to secure necessary approvals for an 18,000 gallon propane autogas fuel station which would sit behind Knight's Shrewsbury facility. Before any permits could be issued, Knight's hired a consultant to perform a thorough fire analysis of the site. Once signed off by the fire chief, the fuel station request was given to the Board of Selectmen which approved it and passed it to the Building Department for requisite permitting. Once a permit was granted, final permission was granted by the state fire marshal.
According to Hogan, the permitting process could not have been smoother.
“From the earliest stages, everyone was extremely helpful. From the Shrewsbury Fire Chief to the selectmen and ultimately the Building Department, they made the process seamless,” he said.
Propane is cleaner and more environmentally friendly than gas or diesel, offering a 19 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, 20 percent in nitrogen oxide emissions and 60 percent in carbon monoxide, according to industry officials. From an economic standpoint, propane has less price fluctuations due to the fact that it is not publicly traded as gas and oil are.
Because 90 percent of propane autogas is produced in the United States, the need for foreign oil is reduced. With thousands of autogas refueling stations across the country, propane is readily available.
Propane autogas is non-toxic and insoluble in water and enters the engine as a completely vaporized fuel that's free from lead, carbon, gum, sulfur and most pollutants. And because it is released as a gas, it does not spill, pool or leave a residue. It is a clean, safe, reliable alternative fuel and is established as the leader in the alternative fuel market.
Heralded as the safest motor fuel with the narrowest flammability range (of any fuel), school buses, police cars and scores of vehicles across the country are converting to propane autogas.
“The conversion to propane autogas made sense in so many ways, not only is it a cleaner and safer fuel but it lessens our dependence on foreign fuel sources. I think this move positions us very well for the future,” Hogan said.