Converting to Propane
Q: I own a 2004 Ford F-150, bought new in America, which I had exported to Germany. I'd like to know whether aftermarket LPG is recommended for the 5.4-liter Triton engine. Is there potential valve-seat recession or are there other problems when LPG is used? Which conversion kits does Ford offer?
A: Ford has built retail liquefied petroleum gas (propane/butane) converted F-150s, but I spoke with Rob Sharp, Ford's alternative-fuel brand manager, and he confirmed Ford's discontinuation of LPG-burning vehicles as of January 2004. There's no kit, and attempting to buy all the needed individual parts from Ford would be dollar-foolish. Production ended because of a limited market, along with the industry's pursuit of hybrid and fuel-cell technologies. Two reputable North American companies that produce conversion kits are BAF Technologies (baftechnologies.com) and TeleFlex GFI (teleflexgfi.com). I don't know of any German manufacturers that make conversion kits for your truck, but if you do find one, be careful. To prevent damage, the cylinder heads will need to be upgraded with hardened valves and valve seats. Another issue is proper management of fuel calibration. That's why finding a quality aftermarket manufacturer is necessary.
Idling Vans for Warmth
Q: I'm the finance manager for a small nonprofit organization that assists the low-income elderly. Our vehicle fleet includes two Ford Econoline vans: one 2002 and one 2003 model. When one of our men arrives at the office each morning, he insists on running his truck while he's inside taking care of paperwork--we're talking 15 minutes to an hour of continuous idling. I've asked him more than once to stop this, but he hasn't. His reasons have included that the interior of the truck is cold, and that this type of vehicle has to run for a while. I'd like to be able to present an argument to our executive director in financial terms by putting a dollar figure to the wasted gas. Can you tell me how many gallons of gas are used at idle?
A: When push comes to shove, in an economical sense, idling engines produce zero mpg. Yes, diesels do burn less fuel at idle than gas-powered engines, and this may be relevant if your fleet includes the one-ton Econoline with the 7.3-liter turbodiesel. But it still may be considered wasting fuel, generating more pollutants, and adding to mechanical wear and tear on the engine. Modern diesels are more adaptive to colder climates than in the past, so cold-start problems, outside of extremely low temperatures, isn't typically a valid excuse. The question is more appropriately the value of keeping your workers warm. A full-size cargo van has a large, uninsulated interior and requires more run time to reach and maintain a comfortable temperature. Take the van to the pump and fill it up, let it idle for what you believe is the average amount of time your worker commits the transgression each day, then fill it and record the amount of fuel used. Multiply the amount by the number of cold days in the working year, and multiply that by the average price per gallon. Example: If he burns half a gallon idling per day (and it won't be that much in 15 minutes), times 150 chilly working days in the year, multiplied by $2 per gallon, it's costing you $150 a year or $12.50 per month.