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TINICUM — An airport parking lot’s switch to a cleaner fuel source for its shuttle buses has been recognized for its positive effects on the environment.

Colonial Airport Parking, in the Lester section of the township, was lauded with the Environmental Excellence Award by the Eastern Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Transportation (EP-ACT) for converting its fleet of shuttle buses from a gasoline engine system to propane. The switch is expected to save 730,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from emission into the atmosphere over the lifetime of the buses.

“It was probably the proudest moment in my professional career,” said Colonial Airport Parking Vice President John Groden when he first heard about the honor back in May. “I try to be just as conscious about the environment at work and home.”

Moving its 10, 14-passenger buses to propane was a voluntary move starting in 2015, according to Groden.

“I did the research and I heard a lot of different stories,” said Groden about using propane autogas. “The Delaware Authority for Regional Transit had been switching buses over to the ROUSH (CleanTech) propane system, and I’ve heard other great successes with it.”

Groden even went out to the corporate headquarers of ROUSH, an industry leader in alternative fuel vehicles, in Livonia, Michigan, as part of his research.

He started the conversion with two of his buses first and slowly progressed with the conversion up until his full dedication to propane in April of this year. Along the way, Colonial was one of 16 municipalities and businesses to receive a grant from Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Alternative Fuels Incentive Grants program last year. The grant for $66,000 helped Groden convert four new buses.

On top of saving almost tens of thousands of gasoline gallon equivalents a year, using propane was a smart business move that will save $80,000 in fuel and maintenance costs annually.

“Propane burns hotter and cleaner so the oil looks new,” said Groden. He added that he was nervous about the change, but his savings have been “almost to the penny” of what he calculated before undertaking this venture.

In a 2016 case study by the U.S. Department of Energy, propane vehicles may cost more than gasoline vehicles, “the cost of the fuel itself is typically lower than that of gasoline, so the return on investment can be quick.” Also, “The potential for lower maintenance costs makes propane a popular choice for high-mileage vehicles. Propane's high octane rating, combined with its low-carbon and low oil-contamination characteristics, has resulted in improved engine life compared to conventional gasoline engines.”

Propane use in vehicles can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent and can reduce petroleum use by 99 percent.

Groden will be formally honored with EP-ACT’s Environmental Excellence Award at an Aug. 13 reception at the Lazaretto Ballroom.

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