With the price of gasoline constantly on the rise, we've become more and more interested in alternative fuels. Among those that have become most prevalent are E85 and propane. Many new cars and trucks are now equipped to run E85, and propane is widely used by taxis, buses, and delivery and fleet vehicles across the nation. With propane being the more obtainable of the two - as well as the fact that GotPropane.com offers a conversion kit for the Suzuki Samurai - we elected to test a propane kit to see how it held up against gasoline. GotPropane.com propane conversion kits are designed for pre-'86, non-smog-controlled vehicles. Kits are available for Suzuki, Toyota, Jeep, and Ford applications. The kits include all of the necessary items for an easy conversion.
At press time, the gasoline average was soaring around $3 a gallon. At the same time, the price of propane averages less than $2 per gallon nationwide, so the price break alone is obviously tantalizing. Probably the only drawback of running propane is that fuel mileage doesn't necessarily improve. In fact, you can figure on consuming about a gallon more on average during a typical all-day trail run (GotPropane.com states that it gets about 14 mpg using its Jeep 258 I-6 propane kit). You will experience increased power and quick starts though, due to the higher 100- to 110-octane fuel, and the average cost per gallon of propane compared to gasoline is still significantly less. With the RocZuk Samurai, however, we actually did experience a slight improvement in fuel mileage, but we suspect that the stock carb may not have been as efficient as it could've been.
Another quality of propane is its low carbon content, which makes it widely recognized as a low-polluting, clean alternative fuel. The low carbon content also means that the oil won't get dirty, so oil-changing intervals are extended as is spark-plug life. Since propane is under pressure, most typical carburetor items, such as the float bowl or needle and seat, and even a fuel pump, are not needed. As a result, it's impossible to flood the carb, and the regulator automatically compensates for altitude change so no rejetting or computer-tweaking is required. A propane-powered engine will run at any angle and even under water, since the system is completely sealed. Propane also won't go bad if left unused for long periods of time and doesn't require frequent filter changes to ensure clean-burning qualities.
Propane is a liquefied petroleum gas produced from the refining of both crude oil and natural gas. Inside a storage tank, it exists as a liquid and a vapor. As the vapor is released, it can be used as a clean-burning fuel. Propane was first discovered and developed in 1910, and the first propane-powered vehicle was up and going by 1913. By 1999, the U.S. was consuming more than 19.6 billion gallons of propane. Approximately 90 percent of the U.S. propane supply is produced domestically. It is most widely used as an alternative fuel, powering 4 million vehicles worldwide and more than 350,000 vehicles in the U.S., which includes more than 80,000 taxis, buses, and delivery and fleet vehicles.