Propane Vehicle Cost Tools and Calculators

While incentives certainly help offset the costs, they are not available in each state, and their longevity is not guaranteed. Fleets are often able to realize an acceptable return on investment term without incentives when considering other factors influenced by the deployment of propane vehicles. In some cases, the factors may be non-monetary, such as motivations to deploy cleaner operating vehicles in a fleet.

There are many tools available online to help calculate different aspects of propane vehicle deployment including petroleum reduction, return of investment, yearly savings, emissions, etc. The sections below highlight several tool fleets may find useful when considering deployment of propane vehicles. The tools range in complexity, with the more basic calculators providing estimated savings and payback and more complex models addressing cost of ownership and emission reductions. The following tools are publicly available and readers are encouraged to employ the tool that best provides the level of detail needed for their individual decision-making process.

  • DOE's Vehicle Cost Calculator: Calculates total cost of ownership and emissions based on individual driving habits, comparing up to eight vehicle makes and models
  • DOE Argonne National Laboratory's AFLEET Tool: Calculates a fleet's petroleum use, cost of ownership, and air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions

Highlights of these two tools, along with links to each are included below.

DOE's Vehicle Cost Calculator

The second tool is the U.S. Department of Energy's Vehicle Cost Calculator. This vehicle cost calculator is a relatively straightforward tool that is useful for comparing two or more specific types or models of vehicles (up tot a total of eight), including alternative fuel vehicles. This calculator can be found on AFDC's tool webpage or at the following web address:

Figure 6: AFDC's Cost Calculator Inputs

The user can pick from a list of vehicles or create their own custom vehicles as shown in Figure 6. Once the comparative vehicles have been chosen and their vehicle usage data has been inputted, the results provide the user with a basic cost analysis and graphs to compare each vehicle, as shown below in Figures 7 and 8.

Figure 7: AFDC's Cost Calculator Results
Figure 8: AFDC's Cost Calculator Cost of Ownership Graph

DOE Argonne National Laboratory's AFLEET Tool: Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environment and Economic Transportation Tool

This last tool is a comprehensive Excel based calculator that is exceptionally useful for an accurate and detailed overview of a propane fleet's total cost of ownership (TCO), greenhouse gas emissions, and petroleum use for both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles. DOE's AFLEET tool, developed by the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), uses data from ANL's Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Transportation (GREET) fuel-cycle model and EPA's Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES) to appropriately compare multiple types of alternative fuel fleet, or to their gas/diesel equivalents. The AFLEET Tool can be found on AFDC's tools page mentioned above, or to access the AFLEET tool directly, the Excel document can be downloaded at the following website:

Because of the level of detail provided by the AFLEET Tool, a set of instructions is included as one of its worksheets to introduce new users to the tool. Along with the instructions, this tool provides a worksheet for the fleets inputs, payback inputs, total cost of ownership inputs, and footprint inputs as well as a worksheet for each of the respective results shown both numerically and graphically. Figure 9 shows the key inputs for the AFLEET Tool. These inputs include: the state in which the vehicle(s) will operate; the number, the annual vehicle mileage, fuel economy, and purchase price by fuel type for both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles; fuel price; years of planned ownership, financial assumptions; and fuel production assumptions. Default inputs are available if a fleet does not have requested information available.

Figure 9: AFLEET Tool Key Inputs

Under each outputs worksheet, the user can find the results of their inputs given in a variety of tables and graphs all with detailed comparisons between the individual fleets described under the Inputs tab. Figures 10 and 11 are examples of two of the total cost of ownership (TCO) graphs given, which in this scenario, compare a diesel fleet and LNG fleet of 30 refuse trucks.

Figure 10: Cumulative Cash Flow Propane vs. Diesel
Figure 11: Total Cost of Ownership Propane vs. Diesel

Other Savings Calculators

In addition to the two calculators highlighted above, a number of other companies offer propane vehicle savings calculators that fleets may find helpful. The calculators vary in level of detail, offering savings calculations ranging from capital and operating costs, fuel savings, and foreign oil dependency reduction. A list highlighting some of the companies offering propane cost calculators is included below: