Can Liquefied Petroleum Gas drive the nation?

David Williams, Motoring Correspondent of the London Evening Standard asks himself what has gone wrong between the 80’s, where Autogas was more popular than today and 2014, where it is in fact more needed than ever.

Although a total of 46 per cent of Londoners would reportedly consider converting to Autogas, ahead of a national figure of 31 per cent only 155,000 have already done so. Those embracing Autogas benefit from over 1,400 forecourts offering this clean fuel, out of a total pool of 8,500. Despite there being an Autogas filling point, on average, every five miles, not a single car manufacturer is currently offering an Autogas model on the UK market. In contrast quite a number of models (Williams mentions 19) are offered across the rest of Europe. To buy second-hand, import or pay around £1,500 for a conversion remains the only way to access an Autogas model.
It’s not for lack of concern over rocketing fuel costs. According to LP Gas supplier Autogas Ltd — a joint venture between Calor and Shell — over half of UK households (57 per cent) now rate fuel costs in their top three financial concerns, after the price of energy and food. In the Autumn Statement made by George Osborne last year, a 10-year tax trajectory supporting low prices for gaseous fuels including LPG was announced. At around half the price of unleaded and diesel Autogas remains significantly more cost-effective. Autogas thus has the potential to save drivers from £500 up to £1,000 a year off of the fuel bill, depending on mileage and vehicle size. It makes sense for consumers to consider it when attempting to reduce household expenses over the next 10 years.

Announcing his 10-year-tax trajectory also introduced a not-so-welcome duty differential reduction of 1p each year, disadvantaging LPG compared with other gaseous road fuels such as Liquified Natural Gas and Compressed Natural Gas, which are not even commonly available to motorists. LPG backers say this needs to go. According to Linda Gomersall, general manager of Autogas Limited, the reduction of CO2 as well as the vastly superior emissions performance regarding NOX and particulates justify the Government considering how to encourage use of Autogas even further, including looking at ways to reintroduce ready-to-drive Autogas cars into the UK, already commonplace in Europe. Over the next few months, motorists will see the branding of Autogas pumps on forecourts become more prominent.


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