Autogas better than electricity?

According to others, the best and most convenient ‘alternative fuel’ in 2015. Some (usually those with compounds full of dusty rechargeable cars they’re obviously struggling to sell) will mischievously argue it’s electricity. AutoExpress thinks they can be ignored. Owning an Autogas car is cheaper, easier and less a hassle to own than a battery electric vehicle (BEV).

Autogas is considered a niche fuel by many and also struggles with a slight image problem. Mike Rutherford identifies its being marketed too silently and the plethora of names it is known under as the two main obstacles hindering its further uptake. He might have a point on the names: LPG, LP gas, GPL, GLP, propane, butane or ideally Autogas are not very few. Then again diesel also goes by more than just two and does quite well. From a technical point of view Autogas works as well as the conventional fuels and in countries where the availability is high. The uptake increases the moment government support is declared and there is consistent favourable policy in place. The higher the advantage in retail prices, the quicker the market growth.

Unlike electricity the Autogas tank is back full in a matter of minutes via pumps on forecourts much like the fuels all drivers are used to. It is cleaner than conventional fuels, and through conversions is also accessible to older cars in a matter of hours for reasonable money.

In the UK companies like Volvo and Vauxhall used to sell factory fitted LPG cars. Unfortunately both companies no longer do. While the former blames the thin Autogas infrastructure, big improvements in petrol and diesel consumption and its diversification into hybrid technology, the latter dropped it as soon as politicians were no longer favouring Autogas.

“Yes, we did build them and sell them in Britain,” Vauxhall told Rutherford. “And they sold fairly well – until the Government pulled the plug on the fuel incentive, then they nosedived.”

Reading this leaves a stale taste in the mouth. As if politicians would quietly pull the rug out from under any alternative fuel that grows too popular. Instead the UK-government installed handouts at over £5,000 to incentivise customers to by expensive pure electric vehicles. While it sounds interesting to subisidise electric cars, hte big picture should remain in view. (What is novel about powering a car with a battery anyway?)

Holding on to Autogas effectively costs less and has a larger effect than throuwing money at buyers of battery cars, people who have much more money than the average driver to begin with. The far greater damage is done on the sidelines: the public learns to favour only the alternative currently en vogue (and subsidised!) and will drop it like a hot potato as soon as government support goes. The “new” technology lands back in the drawer and conventional fuels continue powering the vast majority of cars.

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