Eight Times Around the World
The biggest challenge an interested person faces when deciding to convert their gasoline car to Autogas is how to address the risk of degraded engine reliability. Which, when conversions are not done correctly, may lead to damage. Especially those willing to cut corners and bent to get the cheapest conversion, might just end up getting what they paid for: nothing.
The conversion, that is: the installation of an Autogas system is, in fact, far from being witchcraft and nothing more than solid, technical work. While aggressive cost-cutting may have its consequences in reduced quality of install, a good installation will neither break your bank nor be unable to pay for itself. It might just be able to do even more than that!
Despite the internet at times seeming to be full of warnings about Autogas, success is by far the rule rather than an exception. When going for one’s own conversion, one might want to remember, that the quality of the install is not only defined by its components or the experience of the installer, but also relies on a rational sensible configuration. This has prompted a new breed of players in the market (known in the US market) to gain popularity in Europe: The importer/engineering company, a counterpart who acts as a bridge between the component manufacturer and the installer workshop, provides training and support to affiliated workshops and standardises and harmonises the installations. This modular approach takes all the guesswork out of an installation yielding a higher success rate for the workshop and increases the level of satisfaction for the final customer. Under certain conditions, since the installations are standardised, the “pattern maker” will also perform mass conversions for a car manufacturer, and the workshops will act as service points.
The entire system was put to the test on a Fiat Croma where Ecoengines, based in Abstatt (southern Germany) engineered a solution using Lovato components. The Fiat, entering the market over 6 years ago, did not achieve a huge success on the market, despite being powered by a flawless engine, an Opel-Fiat cooperation, and a fairly large range of 600 km thanks to its 72 litre tank. After 6 years in the wild with over 300 000 km under the belt, the Croma is inspected thoroughly. Still running on its first engine, which displays visible aging thanks to salt used to deice the roads in winter. Despite the Fiat press officer almost classifying the car as an old timer, its total mileage equating a distance eight times around the world, not a single repair (apart from the usual maintenance) being done and the engine running on LPG all the time, the car’s performance was more than satisfactory.
Assuming a consumption of around 10 litres of petrol per 100 km, the total 300 000 km covered would have cost the owner as much as 42 000 €. One litre of Autogas saw average pricing around 0.7 €. A huge savings potential for the owner! In fact a gasoline price of 1.40 € and a volumetric Autogas consumption about 20 % gasoline would have yielded around 15 000 € savings, making it possible to buy a brand new car. Another model – an Opel in this case – with a 1.8 litre engine has also been tested for durability covering more than 200 000 km.
Whenever a car is converted to Autogas, proper valve and valve seat protection needs to be considered. Several different manufacturers offer such systems consisting of a reservoir for a special lubricating additive and metering device. With the correct protection against valve seat recession in place, the 1.8 litre engine is transformed into a perfectly reliable long distance runner exhibiting no noticeable wear at the valves or valve seats.
In the end a good workshop with a properly engineered kit (not only the components!) are key elements for an enjoyable Autogas experience. In the rare cases, where specific engines might not at all be suited for conversion, the good workshop will advise accordingly, recommending not to perform the conversion. Unfortunately, there are still mechanics on the market, who are bent on converting any vehicle as quickly as possible. This inevitably leads to complications and has not been beneficial for reputation of the entire industry. Seemingly impervious to bad experience the Fiat Croma has covered more than 320 000 km still consuming only 1 litre of very basic motor oil per 1000 km.
If that isn’t synonymous with simple reliability