Winnebago County Sheriff's Office switching to propane-fueled squad cars

A Winnebago County squad car that's propane-fueled, as seen on May 11th, 2017. (WLUK/Jerry Van Handel)

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WLUK) -- It's a change the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office is calling a win-win: moving to propane-fueled squad cars.

On the outside, some Winnebago County squad cars look like typical squad cars. But on the inside, they're quite different. They're running on propane, instead of gasoline.

Capt. Lara Vendola-Messer with the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office says the switch to propane fuel was a no-brainer.

"It's a two-fold goal: to save money -- taxpayer money -- and also to be better on the environment,"Vendola-Messer said. "How can you go wrong? we're doing both."

For the deputies driving the propane cars, all they need to do is fill up from a large propane unit at the department and go about their shifts as normal.

"They are bi-fuel so they run on gasoline as well so if they run out of propane in the middle of nowhere, it just kicks over to gasoline," Vendola-Messer said.

The company that sells the propane is based out of Illinois, but J&R Auto Service in Oshkosh is reaping economic benefits locally. They're the technicians installing and fixing the tanks in the cars.

"It's newer technology stuff, its stuff that things will probably might go too, and we'll have a leg up on it," manager Brad Cook said.

So far, the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office has propane tanks in 15 of its cars, and it plans on expanding that to as many of its cars as possible.

"We're starting slow, we're starting with the brand new cars that we just got that just went online this month," Vendola-Messer said.

But once everything's complete, Vendola-Messer says the department's hoping to set the trend for other agencies.

"We've had a few inquiries from local departments that are interested to see how it works out here," she said.

The department says the reduction in mileage propane compared to gasoline is about five percent. So it believes, given current prices of both, the propane is cheaper overall.

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