LPG letters on black blocks à la Scrabble

Inexpensive and more ecological mobility is the talk of the town on European roads. Strangely, most drivers only ever consider electric cars, which are incredibly costly to purchase. But there are other options available, often more economical and less expensive than a full EV or a hybrid.

The meaning of LPG in the autosphere.

LPG stands for liquid petroleum gas, a mixture of propane and butane, and it is a solution that has been around since the 1930s. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, autogas conversion became a popular choice for those looking to cut down the costs of their travels.

Liquid petroleum gas installation for cars consists of:

  • a gas tank, usually put in or under the boot of a vehicle;
  • a converter that converts liquid gas into vapour;
  • a mixer that mixes the gas with air before injection into the engine;
  • an electronic controller to switch between the two fuels and make sure everything runs by the numbers.

Some engines are perfect for LPG conversion, others not so much. Because liquid petroleum gas burns the same way as petrol does, conversion kits are available for those engines only. So, if you have a diesel, the sad news is that it simply wasn’t meant to be. Among the common UK powertrains that are ideal candidates for autogas are the Vauxhall 1.4 Turbo and Honda R-series 1.8/2.0 i-VTEC.

Of course, others will perform well too, but always ask for more details at your trusted garage before making any final decisions.

The pros and cons of LPG conversion.

It is a prevalent misconception in the motorist community that LPG conversion leads to road tax reduction. And while it does not, liquid petroleum gas offers other lucrative advantages. First of all, after an initial investment of up to £2,000, you get to freely enjoy LPG, which costs less than half the price of petrol. There is also an ecological advantage for those who seek a greener future. In comparison to petrol vehicles, cars converted to autogas emit:

  • 33% less CO2;
  • 63% less CO;
  • 82% less NOx.

Liquid petroleum gas bottles

If you need another reason to convince you to convert, here it is: with two tanks full of petrol and LPG, you can nearly double your vehicle’s range. And the more you use your vehicle for travelling, the faster the LPG conversion will pay for itself. On average, it takes 30,000 miles to cover the cost, and everything after that is pure saving. You will, however, have to pay more for car maintenance as the LPG system requires an additional annual check to pass the MOT. Nonetheless, the savings will definitely outweigh the costs.

On the downside, you will have to put an additional LPG tank in the boot of your vehicle. And it will take up space. Some conversion kits include a smaller, wheel-shaped gas tank that fits easily in the space for your spare. If you place it there, you have to decide whether to put a spare wheel in the boot, or leave it at home and carry a tyre repair kit for puncture treatment. In fact, a larger LPG tank might take up nearly half of your boot space. That means less potential luggage or shopping space, which is a trade-off you must consider carefully.

Car filled up with liquid petroleum gas

The problems with LPG conversion are also inherently linked to its chemical properties. Namely, the ignition temperature of liquid petroleum gas is much higher than that of petrol, and using it as a propellant may lead to head gasket damage. It would take years and years for this to happen, however, and by the time it occurs, you will have saved much more than the cost of the replacement. Not to mention that petrol-guzzling engines need head gasket replacements as well.

Lastly, not all petrol stations in the UK have the capacity to accommodate LPG. In fact, less than 1 in 5 have the necessary facilities to refuel cars running on liquid petroleum gas. While drivers in cities and towns are in luck for the most part, those who frequent rural areas may have problems finding a place to fill up their gas tanks.

LPG service station

Is LPG inferior in performance compared to its petrol counterpart?

A popular urban legend has it that LPG conversion results in decreased car performance. This myth used to be true, but that was over 20 years ago. Nowadays, however, all vehicles are equipped with direct fuel injection systems and offer the same speed and acceleration for half the fuel price. The bottom line is, it’s not a concern. Modern LPG cars are 100% reliable, fun to drive and offer astonishing savings for those who drive often.

LPG in cars: yay or nay?

If you are a Sunday driver or only take your car for a spin to the local supermarket, it could take years for you to secure the return of investment. Also, the conversion won't pay off if you're planning on selling your car. It will be hard, if not impossible, to recover the cost of installation in the price.

On the other hand, for everyone who owns a petrol car and drives a lot, or for motorists whose vehicles are not fuel-efficient, it really is a no-brainer. Not only will you save cash, but also improve your fuel economy and look after the environment all at the same time. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.