LAPORTE | Two new public transit buses that run on propane were unveiled Thursday in LaPorte.
The city expects to reap big savings and contribute to the health of the environment while losing nothing in engine performance.
The new green-and-white, cleaner burning Ford F450s are now part of the fleet at Transporte.
Tranporte Director Tom MacClennan said the buses, costing $70,000 apiece. were funded 80 percent with a federal grant obtained by the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, which retained ownership.
The city paid the remainder of the tab and is leasing the vehicles from NIRPC for just $1 apiece per year.
The buses through an agreement with the Indiana Department of Transportation will fill up with propane at the INDOT headquarters in LaPorte.
MacClennan said propane costs less than $2 a gallon, which means roughly $10,000 less spent on fuel during a 12-month period.
In addition, a second grant is being used to pay for all of the propane consumed by the buses the first year.
''Even more of a savings for us,'' MacClennan said.
The engines were equipped to burn liquid propane with a fuel system designed by Roush Cleantech, of Livonia, Mich.
Brian Carney, director of marketing for the firm, said engines that burn propane give off 60 percent less carbon monoxide than traditional gasoline powered motors.
Emissions of nitrogen oxide and greenhouse gases are reduced by more than 20 percent.
''A pretty significant difference,'' said Carney, who added there is no difference in horsepower.
He said the only drawback is vehicles burning propane get about 15 percent fewer miles per tank, but the less-costly fuel price more than makes up for the loss in mileage.
Carney said propane is much cheaper because 90 percent of what is burned worldwide comes from North America and there's more of it than oil.
''We're trying to wean ourselves off foreign oil. This is a great alternative,'' Carney said.
Carney said burning propane is safe because the tanks on vehicles are made of stainless steel, which are ''20 times more puncture resistant'' than traditional vehicle fuel tanks made of plastic.
To prevent the liquid propane from reverting back into a gas, the fuel is kept under 200 pounds of pressure in the tanks that ''you can shoot with bullets and it wouldn't puncture,'' Carney said.
He said 17 million vehicles worldwide burn propane but only 250,000 of those vehicles are in the U.S. Carney said a majority of vehicles in some countries in Europe where gas is higher than $7 per gallon burn propane.