Bakehouse Gets Greener with Propane Trucks

Recently, a new structure appeared in the parking lot behind Zingerman’s Bakehouse. No we didn’t open a new business. In this case, the new structure was a big propane tank and as soon as it was up, there was a steady line of our delivery trucks waiting to fuel up for their runs across Washtenaw County and across lower Michigan. Why propane? Well, why don’t we let Bakehouse founder and co-managing partner Frank Carollo explain.

How did we get here?
I guess it all started a couple of years ago when we got all of the managers and many of the staff at the Bakehouse together to write a Bakehouse Vision for 2020. We all got talking about how the work we do here at the Bakehouse impacts the environment and our world. While having an inspirational vision is a nice thing, what I find amazing is what it helps you accomplish. Suddenly we had all kinds of input about how we could do a better and more effective job of recycling (which we had already been doing for about 10 years). Next we got started separating our compostable waste and found a partner to make good use of it. Then, since we work here 24 hours a day, we decided to look at our electrical usage and see what improvements we could make. So a bit more than a year ago we replaced all of the light fixtures in the Bakehouse with bulbs that consume a fraction of the electricity as well as putting in sensors that shut off the lights when there is no one nearby.

The logical next step was to consider the energy use of our delivery fleet. The Bakehouse delivers our cakes, pastries, and breads throughout much of southeastern Michigan 363 days each year. Our vehicles log approximately 150,000 miles per year making those deliveries. So last spring when I knew that the lease for 3 of our vehicles was coming to term, we acted on the opportunity to try and make a difference in our consumption of fuel and the contributions to greenhouse gasses.

Why propane?
With the help of the Clean Energy Coalition I discovered that liquid propane was a viable option for our fleet. We found that liquid propane is a low-carbon alternative fuel that produces significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than diesel and gasoline in our vehicle application.

  • Propane auto gas exhaust creates 60 to 70 percent less smog-producing hydrocarbons than gasoline.
  • Compared to gasoline, propane yields 12 percent less carbon dioxide, about 20 percent less nitrogen oxide, and as much as 60 percent less carbon monoxide (World Liquid Propane Gas Association, January 2003; California Energy Commission, January 2003).
  • Propane auto gas cuts emissions of toxins and carcinogens, like benzene and toluene, by up to 96 percent when compared to gasoline (Southwest Research Institute).

With the help of Ferrell Gas, Jake Haas (our landlord), Pittsfield Township, and the DEQ we were able to build a fueling station nearby. The first vehicle in our fleet was delivered in February 2012 and as of March 15th, we’ve had 3 new Ford Econoline trucks on the road running on liquid propane. We are excitedly looking forward to continuing to investigate alternative fuel vehicles as we have a chance to replace another vehicle this December.