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.
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.