LPG: costs, consumption, conversion, guidebook

Autogas: A good alternative?

Good 450.000 vehicles running on LPG are on the road in Germany. And in the course of the current diesel discussions, drivers seem to be increasingly considering this fuel. In the first half of the year, according to the DVFG (German Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association), the number of newly registered LPG vehicles increased by 38.2 percent, although in absolute terms this represents an increase of only 1.557 to 2.154 corresponds.

LPG currently more popular than natural gas

Is LPG on the verge of a comeback?? LPG ( Liquefied Petroleum Gas) is considered the number one alternative fuel. At least this is what Rainer Scharr, Chairman of the DVFG, says. Trend: rising. Experts expect that the skepticism towards diesel engines will remain for the time being and play into the hands of LPG. Shell sees the matter quite positively. The petroleum company writes in one of its studies that there could be an increase to 1.0 to 1.5 million LPG vehicles within the next 20 years.

Autogas is tax-subsidized

What makes LPG attractive? It currently costs about 55 euro cents per liter and burns much cleaner than gasoline or diesel. No soot is produced. Nitrogen oxides are reduced by 20 percent compared to a gasoline engine and by more than 95 percent compared to a diesel engine. Possible driving bans in the inner cities, which could affect diesel cars, should therefore no longer be relevant for LPG drivers. “LPG is very interesting from an economic and ecological point of view,” also says Stefan Bratzel, head of the Center of Automotive Managment (CAM) in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. “With a conversion the advantages can be realized without expensive new purchase also for the own vehicle fast and uncomplicatedly”, so Bratzel.

Well-developed network of filling stations

Another advantage is that the network of filling stations is much better developed than for natural gas. There are currently around 6700 gas pumps in Germany (natural gas: only around 1000). Trips abroad are therefore not a problem. LPG is particularly widespread in eastern Europe. Throughout Europe, more than 40.000 stations can be filled with LPG. And concerns about not being allowed to park in underground garages with an LPG car due to possible leaks in the gas lines have been eliminated by a new ordinance more than 20 years ago. At regulars’ tables these “fire theses” unfortunately still persistently hold themselves. “Autogas tanks are at least as safe as a gasoline tank. In addition, various shut-off valves ensure that the gas cannot escape uncontrolled,” says Patrick Poppl, an expert at TuV Sud in Munich.

Disadvantages of LPG

But there are also disadvantages. Due to the lower specific gravity and correspondingly lower energy content compared to gasoline, consumption increases by 15 to 20 percent, which somewhat reduces the cost advantage. In addition, there is a slightly reduced range, since after conversion the gas tank usually has to fit in the spare wheel well (wheel well tank) and therefore only a few liters (40 to 60 liters, depending on the size of the vehicle) fit in. But in a pinch, there’s still the regular gasoline tank.

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Another drawback: The choice of new LPG-powered vehicles is very limited. It is mainly Ford, Opel and Dacia that have LPG models in their portfolio. Volkswagen once had LPG models, but has since dropped out. Instead, the Wolfsburg company relies on natural gas (CNG = Compressed Natural Gas). “Natural gas can be used in highly compressed gasoline direct injectors and burns opposite gasoline with approximately 25 per cent fewer CO2 output , so a VW enterprise speaker.

For the LPG-interested thus mostly only the subsequent conversion remains by certified dealers. The conversion can be carried out on virtually all older gasoline engines, regardless of whether they are three-, four-, five-, six- or eight-cylinder, at least that’s what garages say. “We have many customers with American vehicles,” says an employee of the Hamburg-based converter A&R (Aarland-Rosenkranz), “and even owners of a Mercedes S-Class have us convert to LPG.”Prices for conversions range from 1.200 to 2.600 Euro. Of course, this immediately raises the question: Is such a conversion worthwhile??

Autogas conversion pays off relatively quickly

The general rule is: if you drive a lot, you’ll quickly recoup your investment. At 14.000 kilometers per year, the LPG car saves around 650 euros (see z.B. autogas calculator.de), the conversion would be even with an investment of 2500 euro thus after less than four years again brought in. This takes much longer with natural gas, because the conversion costs are considerably higher, partly because of the complex high-pressure tanks

A good 450,000 vehicles powered by LPG are on the road in Germany

Should the LPG supply run low during the journey, there is no need to worry about being stranded. The system automatically switches to conventional gasoline mode. The driver only receives an acoustic or visual signal and confirms the changeover process by pressing the relevant switch. In principle, the following applies: After the conversion, the car retains the same exhaust gas classification as before. Euro 4 does not become Euro 5 or 6, even if, in absolute terms, the engine emits fewer pollutants. So anyone who has their older car (without a green particulate matter sticker behind the winter windshield) converted to LPG operation will not be allowed to drive in municipal low emission zones in the future.

An LPG wheeled tank

Theoretically, it would even be possible to convert diesel engines to LPG, which would be particularly useful for commercial customers (delivery services, craftsmen, etc.).), which will also have to drive in inner cities in the future. However, it is technically impossible to stop the diesel combustion completely. Instead, there is a simultaneous use of diesel and LPG. The expert speaks of diesel-blend process. According to EKO Gas, this results in diesel savings of around 40 percent. Disadvantages: Conversion costs around 4.000 euros considerably more expensive than a gasoline-powered car. And since, like LPG, diesel fuel is already tax-subsidized, the payback period becomes longer. EKO Gas therefore concludes that conversion can only be economically viable for light trucks (e.g. Mercedes Sprinter, VW Crafter) and above.

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