Only Autobahn with Autogas? Car manufacturers fail to run LPG in the UK, but in Germany amongst the greenest drives says environmental group.

2011 Volkswagen Eco up! (01)
2011 Volkswagen Eco up! (01) (Photo credit: Georg Sander (GS1311))

Only Autobahn with Autogas?

LPG is currently greener than petrol says a German environmental lobby group, but car manufacturers dumped the UK for this technology.Report by Daniel Zylbersztajn,
LPG, Liquid Petroleum Gas powered cars can save their owners a lot of costs on fuel, but they seem to have become rather rare in the UK. This is because vehicles that run on LPG are no longer sold directly through car manufacturers in the UK. The only alternative is to convert a petrol run car privately.
This differs from the situation in countries like Germany and Italy. Not only are new LPG-powered vehicles sold there straight from factory, but LPG has recently been praised by the German environmental think-tank VCD (Verkehrsclub Deutschland e.V. ) that lobbies on ecological transport policy.Every year VCD sets up a rank-table of the most environmentally sound cars. This year they elected three LPG-powered models by the Volkswagen Group as their shared 2013 /2014 annual winners, alongside another winner the hybrid Toyota Prius. This is because the models VW Eco Up!, Seat Mii Ecofuel, and Skoda Citigo Green tec – all not sold in the UK – have a CO2 rating of only 79mg /per kilometre. That is very low compared, to most other carbon fuelled vehicles, unless they are hybrids or electric.
The VW-Group states that the reason why they do not sell these cars in the U.K, is because of an insufficient fuelling infrastructure in Britain. But the government disagrees. The Department of Transport (DfT) issued a statement insisting that Britain has a core infrastructure in place to ensure motorists are within easy reach of a filling station that stocks LPG. They further highlight that LPG continues to enjoy favourable duty rates.

Mike Chapman a spokesperson and manager of the British LPG trade association UK-LPG agrees with the DfT. He says that as far as he knows, the amount of LPG fuelling stations per area are in fact higher than in other European countries. Instead Chapman reckons that the reasons for the VW-Group and others to keep LPG vehicles off Great Britain’s roads are due to the UK being a rather small market compared to other European countries, and crucially he adds because the reduced fuel duty on LPG is no longer fixed and guaranteed for longer periods. UK-LPG concludes that the net-effect of this is that car manufacturers see Britain as a country too risky for LPG-powered cars, because they would have to invest in the re-fitting of garages and training of staff in LPG-technology. “The situation is however absurd,!” complains Chapman.

“You have LPG powered cars, like a model by Ford manufactured in the UK, only to bypass the British market and to be directly exported to continental Europe.”
In ‘efficient Germany’ on the other hand LPG has become very popular, especially amongst those who rely heavily on cars or amongst businesses who own a fleet. The main factor for this popularity is not environmentally driven, but due to economics. LPG, which also enjoys a reduced fuel duty in Germany yields huge savings on fuel spending, compared to any of the conventional fuels available such as diesel or petrol.As to LPGs environmental credentials, which made the VW-Group’s three cars winners of the VCD’s league table, Anja Smetanin, the VCD spokeswoman explains, that what really turns it around for LPG in terms of its environmental impact, is, that “toxic small particle emissions are hardly an issue here”.VCD advises, that LPG is currently preferable to Benzine, because exhaust filter systems that will limit Benzine’s pollutants are only coming into place by September 2014, along with the forthcoming Euro 6 emission norm. Up until now, Benzine-powered cars did not require, unlike cars with Diesel engines, sophisticated exhaust filters that significantly reduce cancer causing air-borne pollutants.

With LPG, they say, there is always an approximate 10% percent reduction of C02 and a reduction of the highly carcinogenic Arene (aromatic hydrocarbon), compared to benzine driven cars. But at the same time VCD admits, that the benefits are not completely straightforward as the advantages only telly up against petrol driven cars. Compared with Diesel and CNG-powered (natural gas) cars, LPG actually yields higher CO2 emissions. However VW produces the same vehicles with any gas, be they LPG, or the stated cleaner CNG and Biogas (ethanol) engines, the later being regarded by some as environmentally deficient, because Biogas crops compete with food crops.

Still, even compared to most Diesel-powered engines the new VW-Group LPG engines are low in CO2 by any means, with their 79 mg / km emissions, except for London, where they fail the test of newer strict CO2 limits for any exemption on the congestion charge in London, set to a maximum level of 75mg/km, which would make less interesting to fleet owners there and keeps electric and hybrid engines ahead of the game.

But VCD say that in spite of the zero emission advantage electric cars have, they currently do not, and they emphasize the word ‘yet’, advise customers to go mad on electric cars. Says Anja Smetanin in Berlin:

Electric cars are still too expensive and their reach is still too limited. We also find the data given about them quite unreliable, as the energy consumption rises hugely in the cold months, with a much reduced reach as a consequence.”

So for the time being VCD give LPG the green light, and they add “ this counts as long as the production of LPG does not involve any fracking, which remains forbidden in Germany due to what they say is its negative environmental impact.”


Last month London was hosting the World LPG Forum. The retailer Autogas (co-owned by Calor and Shell) was busy to attempt to promote the environmental credentials. But it remains to be seen if this had a favourable effect for the reintroduction of the technology in new cars in Britain. Fleet owners, curious to take on the advantage of promised savings, will be watching developments carefully.

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