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Two N.C. police departments going green with dual-fueled fleets

Patrol cars in Raleigh and Knightdale, N.C., will run partially on propane as part of a U.S. Department of Energy program.

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Most folks only think of propane as the gas that fires their grill, but the clean-burning fuel has become an alternative for municipalities looking to save money.

According to the Department of Energy, propane is considered clean-running because it releases 20 to 40 percent less carbon monoxide and about 80 percent less particulate matter than gasoline. The Department of Energy is funding programs around the U.S. to introduce cleaner government fleet vehicles.

This week, for example, dual-fueled patrol cars that run on propane and gasoline have rolled out of two North Carolina police departments as a cost-cutting measure, reported The News & Observer.

According to the story, 10 patrol cars with the Raleigh Police Department, and 10 patrol cars with the Knightdale Police Department will run primarily on propane.

The cars will use gasoline to start the engine, and then automatically switch to propane after the engine is warm. Patrol officers can switch the fuel supply manually while the car is running. And the dual-fuel cars only need about 8 gallons of gasoline every two to three weeks, the story said.

The North Carolina patrol cars were outfitted with dual-fuel systems as part of a $12.9 million, four-year stimulus grant from the DOE's Clean Cities Recovery Act Awards program.

Patrol cars in in North Carolina are just one example of greener government fleet vehicles. With DOE funding, other states have introduced programs that are allowing government agencies to "green up" their act with propane or other alternative fuels.

The state of Indiana has received $10.1 million to introduce propane, compressed natural gas (CNG), and hybrid light- to heavy-duty fleets and the infrastructure for CNG and E85 vehicles. More than 900 alternative fuel vehicles and 13 fueling sites will be used by Indiana government workers, with a savings of one million gallons of gasoline each year.

In Texas, a grant of $12.6 million will dispatch 882 propane vehicles, including 245 propane school buses, 24 medium-duty propane trucks and vans, and 613 propane-fueled light-duty vehicles for 40 school districts and public agencies. The program also includes 35 propane refueling stations. These stations will allow the fleets to lower fueling costs even more, by buying fuel in bulk, the DOE said in a statement.