He had done his research and had estimated that he could save approx. 10% on fuel costs each year once the initial capital investment had been recovered (he calculated that this would take him about 14-16 months).
I found the discussion so interesting that I have decided to write a short post on the benefits of LPG vs. petrol vehicles.
LPG vs Petrol
LPG, also known as propane and autogas, is a by-product of crude oil extraction and the refining process. Many people who consider LPG as an alternative to petrol do so because they believe that the combustion of propane results in lower CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on this matter. In fact two recent studies found conflicting results in terms of the production of hydrocarbons from the combustion of LPG. The first found a significant increase of CO2 emissions compared to petrol, and the other showed a slight increase at a low engine load but a considerable decrease at a high engine load.
What is for certain is that LPG burns cleaner than petrol and therefore emissions of particulates is very low. Moreover, LPG is non-toxic, non-corrosive and free of tetra-ethyl lead and additives. It also has a high octane rating (The octane rating is a measure of how likely a gasoline or liquid petroleum fuel is to self ignite. The higher the number, the less likely an engine is to pre-ignite and suffer damage).
In terms of fuel costs, LPG costs a little more than half the price of petrol or diesel, but fuel economy is about 20-25% lower. Therefore you can get much more bang for your buck or in vehicle parlance, more miles per gallon. According to the AA, overall running costs of an LPG car is approx. a third less than a petrol only car – but only once you’ve recovered the cost of the conversion.
The cost of converting an existing petrol car so it can run on petrol or LPG costs between £1,500 and £2,500. In order to make this investment worthwhile you will need to travel around 14,000 miles a year (i.e. if you have a typical delivery van then you are most likely doing about 20,000 miles p.a., LPG is therefore a good option to consider if you are trying to reduce your total life operating costs for the van).
From an insurance perspective, the AA advises that the the installer should provide you with a registration receipt to show that the conversion has been done correctly. A copy of this will be required by your insurance company.
If you live in Europe (incl. the UK) you should also note that you can’t take an LPG powered car through the Eurotunnel, even if the tank has been emptied or disconnected. There are also restrictions in some underground car parks here and in Europe.
In short the benefits of LPG vs. petrol fuel cars are significant, but only make economic sense if you are running at high engine loads and doing at least 14,000 miles a year.