arrow back button    arrow forward button

On March 13, 1972, Mauna Loa Observatory received a propane car to help maintain the quality of clean air at the observatory. The car ran for about two years, but due to its high maintenance costs and the increase of regular automobile traffic to the mountai, n this experimental program was terminated.

The following articles are from the Tribune Herald Newspaper:

Car Won't Dirty Up Mauna Loa Air


Rudy and the Propane car-T-H Photo.

Dr. Rudolph F. Pueschel explains the silver mixing chamber connecting the air filter and carburetor of his new, liquid propane powered car, mixes air and fuel outside, rather than inside, the carburetor. The converter, a device allowing either liquid propane or regular fuel to be used, can be seen directly behind the air filter.

What looks like a normal car arrived in Hilo Monday [March 13, 1972]. But it is an unusual hybrid which get its first workout with a trip up Mauna Loa today.

"It's our effort to protect our environment up there to keep us alive," said Dr. Rudolph F. Pueschel, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Mauna Loa Observatory.

He was talking about keeping his studies, which depend on clean air for their existence, "alive." And the effort is his new mode of transportation to his elevated laboratory--a car equipped with a converter allowing it to operate on liquid propane as well as high-octane fuel.

The car looks ordinary enough if you don't happen to notice an extra fuel gauge and an inconspicuous switch panel below the left side of the dash board.

But a glance at the engine or trunk compartment reveals the 1971 American Motors Matador is not the machine normally found on a showroom floor. In the trunk is a 22.6 gallon fuel tank and in the engine compartment are a converter and a mixing chamber which allow a standard engine to handle the nearly pollution-free liquid propane.

And using liquid propane instead of normal high octane fuels makes quite a difference in the super-clean atmosphere Pueschel works with, according to the scientist.


Propane-Fuel Car Runs Well; Fleet Will Follow


HILO HAWAII Wednesday MARCH 15, l 972

"The car worked extremely well at high altitudes," Dr. Rudolph F. Pueschel reported Tuesday after a trip to the summit of Mauna Loa. "We will equip our whole fleet to operate on liquid propane fuel."

The American Motors-made car he drove was equipped with a converter and related gear enabling it to operate on liquid propane or higher octane regular gasolines.

Pueschel, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Mauna Loa Observatory, is excited about the prospect of using a fuel from which exhaust emissions of particulates, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons are drastically reduced.

Gone are nearly all particulate matter, and approximately 84 per cent of the carbon monoxide and half of the hydrocarbons which have been widely-blamed for air pollution problems.

His studies at the Observatory presently include research into atmospheric carbon dioxide and particulates and Mauna Loa serves as one of the world's few "bench marks," a pure condition used for comparison with other areas.

"Our sensors (on Mauna Loa) for particulate matter and carbon dioxide show huge spikes when we approach," said Pueschel. The use of liquid propane fuel will "definitely make a difference."

Although his work does not include studies of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon pollution as yet, the elimination of these pollutants is "important for the near future when we expand studies into these areas, Pueschel said.

The "whole fleet" of cars Pueschel referred to include two other cars, one operated by NOAA and the other by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Other cars used by scientists in those agencies will only be used by them for lower level driving.

Pueschel explained that the only differences in the operation of a car on liquid propane as compared with regular gasolines are approximately a 10 per cent drop in mileage and three per cent drop in horse power with the low-polluting fuel.

But in a demonstration ride, Pueschel demonstrated that switching from gasoline to liquid propane while in motion produced no noticeable effect on the car's performance.

Before his trip to the Mauna Loa Observatory, he speculated the car should operate even better at higher altitudes where "thinner" air produced richer fuel-air mixtures. In a telephone conversation from the top, he confirmed it.

The acquisition of the specially equipped car was decided on three months ago, Pueschel said. He credits Paul Lynch, manager of the U. S. General Administrative Services (GAS) car pool in Honolulu for assisting the arrangement.

The converter and related equipment were manufactured by a Mainland firm and installed by Honolulu Gas Co. at a; total cost of $599. The funding was provided by GAS.

As liquid propane fuel is not readily available, a 500 gallon storage tank was installed behind the Cloud Physics Observatory at Hilo College NOAA purchases liquid propane locally for 43-cents per gallon.

The converters are available to anyone who wants one for his personal car, Pueschel said. But, he added, until liquid propane is more readily available, such cars would not be feasible on a large scale.

As for the future and the possible necessity for liquid propane-fueled vehicles, Pueschel commented:

"Someday we will have to pay, and it won't be cheap. We take for granted our air is free, but someday we just won't have it anymore."