lpg - converting your car or van

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lpg - converting your car or van

Want To Cut The Running Costs Of Your Car Or Van In Half? Then You Want To Read This. Motoring Journalist Jonathan Crouch On The Benefits Of Switching To LPG

If some carmaker came up with a petrol-powered range of cars that could effectively cut your fuel costs in half, we'd know about it. The showroom queues would be huge, the waiting lists long and the prices high. So why isn't that true of the motoring alternative able to promise just that - LPG?

You've probably heard this acronym before and you probably know what it stands for Liquefied Petroleum Gas. But that's where the understanding ends for many people. Those who don't see it as something to use with a Summer Bar-B-Q file it away as the kind of fuel favoured by environmentally enlightened councils to use with their bus fleets.

So let's start with a few of the basics. Yes, virtually any petrol car or van - including that thirsty old family car sitting in your driveway - can be cheaply and quickly converted to a 'dual fuel' set-up, enabling it to run on either LPG or petrol at the flick of a switch. It is important though to get appropriate equipment properly fitted from a qualified garage. And no worries about searching for an LPG filling station - there are now more than 1,300 across the UK.

No, there won't be any noticeable performance difference: in fact, some drivers find increased driveability. Nor is there a safety issue: LPG tanks (which take up less boot space than a spare wheel) are much stronger than conventional fuel tanks. In fact the fuel is safer than petrol anyway which is why it is used in so many domestic applications like patio heaters and cigarette lighters.

What about fuel consumption then and the cost of LPG? Again, the answers are simple: your car or van will return slightly less to the gallon than it would with petrol power but then, since a gallon of LPG is now less than half the price of petrol, you won't be worrying too much about that.

The higher your annual mileage of course, the higher the savings stack up, particularly if you've a thirsty car to run. Instant answers on conversion cost savings for your own personal situation are available on a website, www.greenfuel.org.uk, created by The Greenfuel Company, a specialist company that provides simple, tailor-made solutions for conversion to LPG.

Given that the government is committed to maintaining - and if possible increasing the duty differential between petrol, diesel and cleaner gas fuels like LPG, those figures will only look better over time. As will the environment. You may have to drive a motor vehicle but the emergence of LPG means that you no longer have to severely pollute the atmosphere whilst doing so. The Clean Air Society reckons that an LPG-powered car will put out 60% less Carbon Monoxide than an equivalent diesel and 75% less than an equivalent petrol-powered model. There are also large reductions in Hydrocarbons and Carbon Dioxide (petrol) and Particulates (diesel). All of which means that the soot coming out of your exhaust with LPG power will have around 70% Ozone-forming potential compared to a diesel, a figure that rises to 87% compared to petrol power.

More to the point, the fact that fewer filthy deposits are building up in your engine will benefit your wallet as well as your world. A cleaner engine is one that needs less maintenance and also one that will run smoother and last longer. Watch your servicing and maintenance costs fall over time. While we're talking long term costs, it's also worth thinking about residual values.

Italy is Europe's leader when it comes to LPG, with over a million vehicles on the road. The Netherlands also has a growing proportion of motorists using this alternative fuel to power their cars. Many countries are encouraging taxis, buses and lorries to switch to LPG and in Britain the Energy Saving Trust's Powershift programme, funded by the government, believes that alternative transport fuels can play an important role in reducing two of the most damaging effects of the growth in traffic in Britain: urban pollution and global warming.

Powershift has received support from a range of industrial sponsors including Vauxhall, Ford, Peugeot, Toyota, Ford, Transco, BG Plc, British Gas, Volkswagen, Shell, Calor and Powergen and can offer grants worth from 30% to 70% of the additional cost of buying a clean fuel vehicle or converting an existing vehicle. However, they can only be offered to cars that are on the Powershift Register and are under five years old.

Grants are available to help with the purchase of approved vehicles running on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas and electricity (including hybrids) and the amounts awarded can range in value from a few hundred pounds for a clean fuel car to many thousands of pounds for a refuse vehicle or bus.

Vehicles seeking funding must be new or, if converted, less than one year old and vehicles must be included on the Poweshift Register that you will find on the organisation's website at www.est-powershift.org.uk

More and more manufacturers are themselves offering LPG cars and vans in their new model line-ups and a growing number of dealerships and independent companies offer LPG conversions for older cars.

Eight million motorists worldwide have switched on to the benefits of LPG - a figure that is rising almost as quickly as conversions can be carried out. Even so, this remains very much a quiet revolution in the UK, where the number of converted cars stands at just over 100,000 - still the preserve of the sensible few. Be one of them.