With its eyes firmly fixed on some future gasoline shortage, Ford Motor Co. today completed the first domestically produced, factory-equipped propane passenger car and introduced it to the world.
Two hundred of propane powered Granadas are to be delivered from the Chicago assembly plant to propane gas dealers across the nation, members of the National LP (liquedified petroleum) Gas Association. They are the first of what Ford hopes will be a total 1982 production of 3,000 to 5,000 propane-powered Grenadas and Mercury Cougars. The company also hopes that number will increase to 10,000 by the end of 1983.
"The big advantage with propane is its price, which historically has been well below gasoline and diesel," A. Lee Whiteman, general fleet, leasing and rental manager for the Ford Division in Detroit, said.
"Propane currently has a price advantage of nearly 50 cents a gallon less than unleaded gasoline. We estimate that, in the typical fleet usage of about 12,000 miles, there is a savings to the operator of about $250 a year, and this is significant, as you all know, to fleet operators, who operate a lot of vehicles."
In an interview, Whiteman admitted that the price advantage might not be so great now, with gasoline prices down, but "over the long pull there is going to be--none of us knows when--a shortage of petroleum-based fuels--and we see a demand, an accelerated demand, for alternative fuels. I'm talking about propane, methane, methanol."
Whiteman said that, during the next 10 years, Ford will be producing a variety of models using various alternate fuels.
"We started with propane because of its ready availability," he explained. "Next year we will make" the factory-equipped propane car "available to the retail market as well as the fleet market."
"Ninety percent of all our propane is produced domestically," said Kean, an LP gas dealer in Elizabeth, N.J. "For the immediate future, gasoline is still the more practical choice for the individual. I think we'll see propane available on the interstate highway system in the next few years. But propane won't be heavily used in the city.
Kean said consumers will respond not only to the lower cost of propane, but also to it burning cleaner, to the need for no fuel pump, to spark plugs lasting as much as five times longer in engines using propane, to a carburetor with fewer parts, and to much less frequent tuneups.