Autogas, a leading supplier of liquefied petroleum gas, rebrands in an effort to heighten awareness of the fuel type in the UK
Matt Burt
29 January 2015

It is “patently absurd” that the UK hasn’t embraced liquefied petroleum gas as a car fuel with the same enthusiasm as other nations, say champions for LPG.

The call for greater recognition of LPG’s potential benefits came as Autogas, one of the UK’s leading suppliers, announced a major rebranding exercise aimed at highlighting customer awareness of the fuel. Since its introduction 15 years ago, the take-up of LPG by motorists has hit a plateau of just over 150,000 users.

The fuel’s supporters say its benefits are manifold; there is a cost saving for the customer because LPG attracts a lower Government fuel duty than petrol or diesel, meaning it can be sold for around 60p per litre.

LPG-powered Volkswagen Passat driven

With UK cities under growing pressure to tackle air pollution – in 2014, the UK faced a fine of £300m from the EU for failing to meet air pollution targets – LPG evangelists point out that CO2 emissions from the fuel are on average ten per cent lower than a standard petrol-powered car.

NOx emissions from LPG are 80 per cent less than from diesel, while there are up to 98 per cent fewer harmful particulates in LPG than petrol or diesel.

However, those who are driving the latest LPG push admit that they face some significant challenges.

Awareness remains extremely low among UK customers, no car manufacturers currently offer factory-fit LPG systems in their right-hand-drive vehicles and the Government has its might behind the nascent market for electric cars and plug-in hybrids, offering financial incentives for such vehicles when none are in place for LPG-fuelled cars.

Autogas chiefs have called for a more joined-up strategy for all fuel types offered in the UK.

“A proper integrated fuels strategy, which includes LPG, is essential to help the UK tackle its growing air quality and carbon emissions problems,” said Linda Gomersall, general manager for Autogas.

Tim Collins, Autogas chairman, added: “In the 2013 Budget, the chancellor introduced a ten-year fuel duty guarantee, which means LPG will remain significantly more cost effective compared to petrol or diesel.

“While we welcomed this, it did not go far enough because the chancellor also introduced a duty differential reduction of one pence per year, but only for LPG Autogas, placing us at a disadvantage with compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG). We continue to campaign to overturn this and our messages are beginning to be heard, although we have much to do.”

Autogas sells LPG through 215 refueling stations around the country, but in total LPG is available at around 1400 filling stations across the UK.

As well as changing its logos and filling station signage, Autogas is installing new, user-friendly ‘devisser-style’ dispensers to make refueling easier. As part of a £1 million investment programme, similar upgrades to the rest of Autogas’ refuelling network will take place throughout 2015.

The company has set up a new website to extol the fuel’s benefits, offer car conversion advice and provide a calculator for prospective customers to work out potential fuel cost savings.

An average-sized petrol-powered car can be converted to run on dual-fuel (switching seamlessly between LPG and petrol) for about £1200. Autogas calculates this outlay can be recouped over two years.

The company’s own figures suggest that a Ford Focus 1.6 Ecoboost converted to run on LPG could cost £7600 in fuel over 80,000 miles, compared with £11,072 in fuel for a non-converted 1.6 Ecoboost.

Take-up of LPG as a fuel source in the UK is modest in comparison with other nations. Turkey, Spain, Germany and Australia have all been enthusiastic adopters of the fuel.

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Comments
8

29 January 2015
This solution has been around for decades. Why hasn't it caught on? Would Autoexpress be kind enough to shed light on that instead of extolling the benefits alone?

30 January 2015
If I burn LNG which is methane (CH4) then surely I must emit less CO2 per kJ of energy than if I burn petrol (say octane C8H20) or diesel (C20H42), as a low ratio of the LNG fuel is made of carbon.

Therefore, you'd think (assuming engines can burn LNG efficiently) that this would be a really simple way to reduce a car manufacturers CO2 emissions. Or am I missing something?

30 January 2015
LPG has failed to make much impact in at least the last 30 years. One of the issues is that efficiency is poor because most applications are dual fuel with the engine optimised for petrol. If the engine was designed specifically for LPG, then efficiency might be a bit better, but no manufacturer is currently doing this. And I believe that there are some safety issues - I don't think it is legal for LPG cars to use tunnels, because of the danger of the heavier-than-air fuel accumulating at the bottom of the tunnel just waiting for ignition...
I think CNG has much better prospects, but that hasn't caught on either.

30 January 2015
My first car was a dual fuel 1984 Ford Falcon. Us Aussies have been enjoying the benefits of LPG for years. The biggest draw back with my first car was that the boot size was dramatically reduced - the LPG tank sat between the rear wheel arches. And fuel usage was much greater. But the costs were substantially reduced because back then LPG was less than half the cost of petrol.
Ford Australia and Holden both produce LPG dedicated versions of the Falcon and Commodore. The LPG tank now sits where the spare wheel would normally so no reduction of boot space. And because the cars are tuned solely to run on LPG, they actually produce more power and torque than their petrol powered equivalents because LPG has a higher octane number than regular 91 octane fuel in Oz. Just don't run out of LPG.

30 January 2015
Is there a compatibility issue with new petrol engines with their advanced injection systems? Back when I was working for Volkswagen in Australia in the mid-late '00s, none of their new petrol models were LPG-compatible. The reason given was incompatibility of the fuel injection systems to cope with LPG.

It wasn't a massive issue for cars, especially since VW was pushing diesel hard, but had a noticeable impact on van sales where the extra space taken by the tank was less of an issue and van drivers were more suspicious of diesel tech.

No idea if this has been solved by now, though.

30 January 2015
I ran an LPG (dual fuel) car between 2005 and 2007, and I wouldn't rush back to another one anytime soon. The range of the doughnut tank (in the spare wheel well) was around 180 miles, which meant filling up at the start and end of any longish journey, and finding a suitable filling station was not always easy. There were no LPG stations on the Isle of Wight, for example. Overall I felt that the costs were just slightly lower than that of a good diesel car, but the short range, long fill times (takes twice as long to charge an LPG tank than fill with fuel), and reduction in power were too much of a compromise. Plus any cost advantage could be axed overnight at the whim of the chancellor. If you have a massive V8 and enjoy standing by the car in a petrol station four times a week, it may be worth considering; if not, it's really not worth it in my opinion.

30 January 2015
The merits of having a spare wheel have been discussed on here many times, with the majority, including me, much prefering to have a spare wheel. Filling the space for my spare wheel with a large fuel tank is a non-starter for me.

30 January 2015
If the benefits of using LPG were as great as Autogas would like us to believe, I'm sure there would have been a greater take-up.

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

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