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Old 01-09-2006, 12:59 PM   #1
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Propane fueled engines

.
I just came across four 1979-1983 models that run on propane; for $500 each -- vs their diesel busses which are listed for several thousands. But I plan to travel cross country. How big a propane tank can I install before I have to register it as a WMD? Any thoughts?
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Old 01-09-2006, 01:15 PM   #2
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Remember the bus at the end of Mad Max, the gas tank filled the entire thing...
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Old 01-09-2006, 02:55 PM   #3
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IINM, one member had a propane bus but converted it to gas when he had his engine rebuilt. I recall someone talking about getting worse mileage with propane than with gasoline. I also recall someone saying that it's not always convienient to find a propane filling station.

Not that I'm against propane mind you...just things I've heard.
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Old 01-09-2006, 03:08 PM   #4
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Quite so.

Propane has a bit less energy than gasoline. But it is a much better motor fuel because it is already a gas when it enters the engine so it burns more efficiently. No droplets refusing to light in a timely fashion. Being a gas, it also causes less "wash-down" of the oil film on the cylinder walls, which reduces wear. And it brings less contaminants into the engine -- ditto.

So propane is a lovely fuel. It's the availability of the stuff around the county that worries me.

Grabbing the bus for the bargain price and converting back to gasoline does seem realistic. From what I know, it's only a matter of external parts, right? One of these busses has a 427 Chevy -- how hard can it be to find a caburator?

Somebody please talk me out of this!
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Old 01-10-2006, 06:16 PM   #5
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Well, It may have been my bus you recall hearing about. I have an 85 gmc bluebird that runs off propane. We partially converted it to live in while we moved (and lived in) our way across Canada. That's about 5000 km's.

The propane is a very effiecient fuel, however it does have it's down sides:

Availability is an issue. It can be difficult to find an automotive fueler. We had a few close calls in the maritimes. The major problem is you can't just top it up with a jerry can. You need a tow to the nearest dealer.

High burn temperature can prematurely burn out the valves, which is what happened to ours. We rebuilt the entire engine.

Large tank size. Propane requires a large tank to have any usefull amount of fuel and drive size. Ours is about 200 plus gallons and we get about 5 hours (fully loaded, moving, with a trailer) of 60 plus miles an hour drive time. So, a big tank. But on a bus it's not a big issue.

Positives:

Propane is much cheaper. Even if there is a power difference. Propane has less combustibles which gives less power and fuel efficiency. However we were paying less than 50 cents per litre and regular gasoline was over 80 cents per litre.

Very easy to switch to regular fuel. Just add a regular fuel tank, fuel pump, gas line, gauge and your set. You can also get a system that enables you to run dual fuels that you can switch back and forth with the flick of a switch.

We are in the process of switching our to gasoline to move back to Calgary for convience sake. Once there we will go the dual fuel system.

I hope this helps, if you have anymore questions please just ask.

-Richard
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Old 01-10-2006, 07:36 PM   #6
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.
Thank you -- that's wonderful information! For visual reference I can look out the window at the 250 gallon propane tank in my yard! Do you know if there is a legal limit on tank size? Well, never mind -- I would probably convert to gasoline or dual.

That 5 hour range is a problem indeed. On 200 gallons of diesel I drive an 18-wheeler for two full days.

Thanks again!
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Old 01-11-2006, 08:25 AM   #7
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Hey, CaptainKF!

Yep, it was your situation that I was referring to, although I didn't have the story exactly right. I didn't realize that the price difference between propane and gasoline was that great, either. I only buy about 20# of propane every 3 months or so for my little gas range...
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Old 01-12-2006, 04:09 PM   #8
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Update: it's about 250 LITRES not gallons. big difference. Sorry about that. Switching between imperial and metric throws me off somtimes. The tank is located behind the stairwell and is flush with the bottom skirting on the bus. it is about 5 feet long. There is a bit over 2' in between the back of it and the rear dualies. My bus is a 52 passenger bluebird 33' bumper to bumper.

It's in storage right now or I would post pictures.

I hope this helps.

-Richard
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Old 01-12-2006, 04:29 PM   #9
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Ah, that makes more sense. Thank you for taking the trouble to correct it!

I fully understand. I grew up in Europe and now live in the U.S. Så jeg har to forskjellige språk, også. Oops... So I have to deal with two different languages also.

When we called, we discovered that the propane busses are actually located further from home than what the listing showed, so I'm turning down the pounding-heart dial a little -- for now.

Be well,
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Old 01-23-2006, 01:30 PM   #10
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more propane info

I have an 80 gallon tank on my 429 B700 carpenter 40'. Due to tank filling restrictions (75%) you can only get about 60 gallons in one. I get about 5-7 MPG at 55 MPH fully loaded.
The power delivered is slightly less for propane than it is for gas, but you really cant tell the difference. The conversion factor is 1.3:1 which means 13 gallons of propane is equal to 10 gallons of gas. In some parts of the country this makes a big difference as the price of propane is very cheap (as low as $1.70/gallon) compared to gasoline ($2.95/gallon at the same station). In other areas of the country it makes less of a difference. I could drive about half a day before looking for fuel, which was perfect for me since I needed to stretch my legs anyhow.

Finding fuel however, can be problematic. Weekdays between 9am and 5pm is the only time you will be able to refuel in most cases. You can always fill up at a KOA or other RV campground, but it is much more expensive. Some places will refuse to fill you even though they have the ability due to licensing issues. (motor vehicle fuel vs camping fuel).

Still, with all of this I plan to keep the bus propane powered. First, it qualifies as a clean fuel vehicle. Second, the propane tank for an rv is already installed, all I need is a few vlaves and I can pipe it into the "house". Third, I have learned alot about getting fuel, I plan on adding the capacity to hold a couple of 5 or 10 gallon bar-b-que style tanks, which I can get filled anywhere, and plumb them into the system with valves for emergencies. And finally, propane powered engines live about twice as long as normal gasoline engines, which will make a big difference in the long run I suspect.
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