Letter Re: Converting Gas Engine Vehicles to Propane

I haven’t seen much discussion to date in SurvivalBlog on Propane-burning vehicles as a retreat / bug out / EMP-proof vehicle. From what I understand, Propane combusting vehicles are not as popular in the USA as they have been in Canada, not to say we have a large amount of them running on streets, however, they are here and they are available. I’m looking at a EMP proof vehicle right now which happens to be a 1985 Chevy, 4×4, 1/2-Ton which has been converted to propane. Are their any issues with this that you may or may not be aware of as an EMP proof convertible vehicle?

Propane is currently cheaper [per gallon] than gasoline and as you know stores much longer than that of Gasoline or [even] Diesel. If it can be done, others should start looking that way. Aside from the small amount of loss in power, the pros could far out weigh the cons providing they can be EMP-proofed, which I don’t know anything about when it comes to propane vehicles. Please advise. Thanks in advance. – Dan S.

JWR Replies: Because propane might be hard to come by “on the road”, I don’t recommend propane for bug-out vehicles, unless your retreat is within range of one tank of fuel. But propane is ideal for trucks and tractors that will not often leave your retreat property. I prefer converting pickups rather than SUVs, since propane fuel tanks are relatively large. For some details, see this blog piece that I posted in June.

A 1985 Chevy will have an electronic ignition system. But it is not too difficult to retrofit a traditional ignition system (with rotor, points, and condenser) at the same time that the fuel and Carburetion systems are converted to propane. (Owners of newer vehicles should be advised that there are other microprocessors present in critical subsystems. (Most notably solid state voltage regulators and components in the fuel and transmission systems that should also be retrofitted to make a vehicle “EMP proof”).

There are some issues involving payment of road taxes, in some states, when converting to propane, If it were not for that, I believe that propane conversions would be much more popular. (Consult your state and local laws before doing a conversion.)

Propane or “GNC” (Gaz naturel comprimé) conversions are popular in many countries. For the sake of versatility and flexibility, I highly recommend that one of the vehicles at your retreat can be run on propane. With today’s soaring gasoline and diesel prices, you will have the added benefit of buying fuel that is less expensive, per BTU. (At least at the present day.)