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Autogas - the Lower Carbon Option - October 2007...

The Environmental Case:
The environmental case for LPG/autogas as a transport fuel is now well proven and documented. Autogas consistently produces on average a 10% improvement over petrol on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on tailpipe results alone and a 20% 'well to wheel' improvement overall putting autogas way up the list for environmental credentials compared to other alternatives such as bio-diesels and electric hybrids.

Government and European Commission targets for the reduction of CO2 for road transport are ambitious and vehicle manufacturers are failing to meet the targets set in order to achieve the promises made in the Kyoto Agreement.

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) quote approximately 30 million cars on our roads today that produce their own weight in CO2 every 6,000 miles. The average UK mileage is considered to be 9,000 miles per annum of which the vast majority is fuelled by petrol producing a staggering 3.47 tonnes of CO2 per vehicle a year.

"24 million cars running on petrol produce over 83 millions tonnes of
carbon dioxide a year in the UK."

There is a growing trend towards the uptake of diesel vehicles that produce high levels of PM10 and other noxious tailpipe emissions causing additional concerns over local urban air quality with marked increases in asthmatic and other respiratory diseases. Autogas demonstrates even greater environmental advantages on air quality over diesel that have also been exhaustively reported in other more technical documents.

It is estimated that autogas currently accounts for just under 1% of cars in the UK, thereby, saving almost 210,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum. We can do much more!

Evidently a larger uptake of autogas could have dramatic effects on current and predicted levels of carbon dioxide in the UK. With continuing support from Government on current fuel duty commitments and consideration of additional tax breaks for the 'carbon conscious' motorist, we can make a difference.

The Evidence:
We looked at VCA emission listings of four vehicles ranging from the smallest 1.2 ltr Vauxhall Corsa through to a Range Rover 4.4 V8 producing on average 231.7 g/km of CO2. The proven average 'well to wheel' reduction of CO2 for LPG is 20% compared to petrol producing a saving of approximately 0.7 tonnes a vehicle per annum.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) As an Automotive Fuel

Autogas is the term generally used for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), when it is used for the propulsion of road vehicles. It is obtained as a by-product of the distillation of oil from crude oil and from "wet" North Sea gas. It is produced in large quantities, a surplus of approximately 4 million tonnes per annum is currently available from the North Sea . This surplus is forecast to increase over the next 20 years.

When it is pressurised it becomes a liquid and it is in this form that it is pumped into your tank. Compared to petrol, Autogas has a higher octane content (according to the RON method).

- Super grade petrol 98
- Lead free 95
- LPG over 100

Advantages over other fuels

  • The combustion of Autogas is smoother as a result of the higher octane content. Unlike other fuels, no additives are required to guarantee high quality.
  • Autogas contains no lead and is therefore cleaner.
  • It is actually better than petrol because it reaches the engine in pure gas form with improved combustion resulting.
  • With modern technology, there is hardly any discharge of carbon monoxide, and compared to petrol and diesel, the exhaust fumes contain less harmful substances.
  • The life of the engine is extended as a result of the absence of acids and carbon deposits.
  • The engine oil does not become diluted with a consequential reduction in servicing costs.
  • Unlike diesel, you do not have to adjust your driving style. Cold starting is no problem, engine performance is almost exactly the same as with petrol. There is no spilling when filling your tank and no possibility of theft or pilfering. Engine noise is low and you'll be driving in a more environment-friendly way.
  • The environmental advantages of Autogas for automotive use are indisputable.

Current Users of Autogas
Italy leads the field with over a million vehicles on the road, the Netherlands, North America and Mexico each have just under half a million. By far the biggest consumer of Autogas however is Japan , which uses over 1,8000,00 tonnes a year. This is hardly surprising given the countries population density and the pollution problems of its major cities such as Tokyo and Yokohama . Over 90% of all taxis in Japan are powered by Autogas.

In Vienna, severe pollution problems started many years ago and to overcome these, the authorities started converting buses to Autogas some 30 years ago. This proved so successful in reducing pollution that the number of buses running on Autogas has been increased over the years to 400 today.

The Safety Record
Autogas has an excellent safety record throughout the world, both in terms of its storage, transportation and use. Extensive safety tests have been undertaken with respect to its use and the conclusions reached are that it is substantially safer than petrol due to its more robust fuel tank being more resistant to impact damage.

Running Cost Savings
Environmental issues are becoming more and more evident in our daily lives. In the mid 90�s the then Chancellor made changes to the rates of excise duty on motor fuels to make Autogas even more attractive to road users. He specifically mentioned the environmental advantages of Autogas and successive Chancellors have continued this fiscal policy as a means of addressing the environmental problems we all face.

Resulting from this we have witnessed the tremendous investment by major fuel companies necessary to install efficient Autogas dispensers in their fuel sites. There are currently over 1,300 public refueling sites in the UK many of which are on major routes and at super market stations.  This commitment undoubtedly underlines the acceptance of Autogas as the most viable alternative fuel available today.

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