Is LPG the fuel of the future?

  • Find out if LPG is right for you
  • Benefits and disadvantages explained
  • Cheap refuelling costs could mean savings

It may surprise you to learn that Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) has been used in some countries as motor fuel from as early as the 1940s.

According to statistics, there are over 16 million vehicles worldwide currently powered by it, yet many of us may not be aware of what LPG (or autogas, as it is also known) actually is and what the benefits are.

This guide is here to help you get to grips with the benefits of LPG as an alternative to petrol or diesel and how you can go about converting your car.

What is LPG?

LPG is a natural hydrocarbon fuel made up of Propane and Butane. 

As well as providing an alternative fuel for cars, LPG can also be used in the home for heating and cooking.

LPG is a fossil fuel-like oil and natural gas, and is a byproduct of the refining process for other fuels like crude oil and petrol.

When used in a car, LPG is fed from a tank in the car through a pipe as a liquid to the engine compartment and then converted into gas before being combusted.

It doesn't work with diesel engines unless a significant amount of work is carried out on them, so is far better suited to petrol engines.

Why should I choose LPG?

One of the key benefits to switching to LPG is the cost of fuel. The price per litre can sometimes be as much as half the cost of petrol and diesel.

It’s worth mentioning now that LPG is not as economical as either petrol or diesel, usually achieving 80-85 percent performance of a petrol engine as it has a lower energy density.

The garage that carries out the work needs to be approved, with a certification, and then you can get a small discount off your road tax.

There are also environmental benefits. Even though LPG cars have similar CO2 outputs to diesel, they do have other advantages like fewer particulate emissions and reduced road noise.

Converting to LPG

There are not many converted LPG cars available to buy. The used car market is where you'll find the best deals. Some manufacturers may offer LPG options or approved conversions but there are only a handful.

If you want to switch to LPG, the easiest way is usually going to a garage and getting your current petrol car converted and an LPG tank installed.

Converting your current car is not a cheap thing to do and usually costs in the region of £2,000. However, this cost can be quickly recuperated if you do high mileage because of the low fuel costs.

The first thing you should make sure is that the car’s warranty includes LPG conversion. If it doesn’t, you should speak to the car manufacturer to find out why or source out another provider.

The garage that carries out the work needs to be LPGA-approved and should ensure that the right system and installer are used for your car. Also, if you do convert your car to LPG then you should register it on the official UKLPG Vehicle Register and inform your insurer and the DVLA.

Some insurers may not insure a vehicle following a conversion if it is not on the register.

The LPG system is usually fitted in the boot so you need to be prepared to lose some of your storage space as a result and in most cases a switch will be fitted on the dashboard that allows you to switch from LPG to petrol.

Disadvantages

Unfortunately, not all petrol stations sell LPG so it is worth checking your local area before you make the switch to make sure you don’t have to go out of your way to refuel.

LPG is not as economical as petrol and the system that is installed can take up a fair amount of boot space.

So is LPG the fuel of the future?

LPG does offer a greener, more cost-effective solution to the conventional combustion engine that could help those who do high mileage save a significant amount of money.

But with so many alternatives emerging over the past few years including hybrids and electric cars that are getting support from the government, it looks like LPG may become side-lined in favour of battery power.