It's been a century since an expert for the federal Bureau of Mines was asked to investigate mysterious vapors rising from the fuel tank of a Ford Model T. One of the vapors components turned out to be propane, and with that an industry was born that provides an important fuel for warming rural homes and fueling backyard barbecue grills.
But cracking the market for transportation fuel has been much tougher.
Tom Wurdack's recent visit to Midway Ford Truck Center just south of Worlds of Fun wasn't to see the rows of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles that are the dealership's big sellers.
The fleet manager for Lenexa-based Renzenberger Inc. was interested in something a bit different: a van that would emit less pollution, cost less to maintain and have lower fuel costs — using propane.
Under a Ford-approved program, the dealership refits new trucks and vans to use propane. And Renzenberger, which transports railroad workers in 20 states, was intrigued by the potential for its fleet of 1,200 vehicles. "We're going to at least try a handful; we owe it to ourselves and the environment," Wurdack said.
Memo to Hank Hill, the fictional character in the animated series "King of the Hill" who sells propane and propane accessories: Things are going to get interesting.
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