Autogas – the third fuel of choice for motorists
AI interview Inigo Palacio Prada, Chairman, Global Automotive Industry Network (GAIN), World LP Gas Association (WLPGA)
"Cleaner air quality, lower health costs and more efficient motoring; all without any loss of performance."
The World LP Gas Association, based in Paris, is the authoritative, global voice for LP Gas. Its main aim is to promote the use of LP Gas worldwide to foster a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous world.
One of its key activities is to encourage the use of LP Gas as an automotive fuel. In this key application for LP Gas, Autogas plays a major role in combating greenhouse gas and ambient air pollution emissions.
The use of Autogas has been growing steadily during the past 10 years with volumes almost doubling.
In support of this growth WLPGA formed a network called GAIN. GAIN is the Global Automotive Industry Network and Inigo Palacio Prada is its Chairman.
Inigo is also the bulk LPGas and Autogas marketing manager, Repsol in Spain. We spoke to Inigo about Autogas and GAIN.
Why is Autogas such an attractive transport fuel?
Last year 14.6 million road vehicles worldwide used Autogas making LP Gas the third fuel of choice for motorists.
LP Gas is not just a great source of energy for cooking and heating, it has exceptional properties as an engine fuel.
LP Gas can be transformed from a gas into a liquid at relatively low pressure and so little energy is required to dispense it into the vehicle’s tank, making its net "well to wheel" greenhouse credentials very attractive.
Although LP Gas is stored as a liquid it is burnt as a gas, and burnt very efficiently. It generates extremely low particle emissions, making it a very attractive alternative transport fuel.
If it is so good as a transport fuel why don’t more car manufacturers make their vehicles run on Autogas?
Many car manufacturers do produce dedicated vehicles that run on Autogas alone. In fact in Australia one out of every three cars that Ford produces is a dedicated Autogas vehicle. General Motors are also planning to introduce an Autogas version of its Cruze medium sized sedan in Europe later this year, as they already do with the rest of the Chevrolet models. Fiat offers LP Gas versions of their most common models. VW has launched a new LP Gas Golf version and all Korean manufacturers lead the Autogas market with dedicated LP Gas models, even hybrid ones (Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte).
One of our key objectives within GAIN is to communicate with car manufacturers more so we can spread the word around the world that Autogas is the third automotive fuel and it is here and now.
What about electric cars?
Although the number of electric vehicles is growing more quickly than anyone could have predicted just a few years ago the reality is that traditional automotive fuels will continue to be widely used for many years to come. We believe therefore that there is a role for Autogas to play both today and tomorrow.
There are also opportunities emerging for LP Gas to be used in hybrid applications with electricity. Autogas can be successfully combined with electricity, as Kia does with its new Forte Hybrid-LPG, and Hyundai with its new Elantra.
Electric vehicles are no doubt going to emerge as an alternative to traditional automotive fuels at some stage in the future. We must remember that Autogas can provide significant benefits over gasoline and diesel and is available here and now.
What does GAIN do?
The GAIN network represents just one part of the complex group of stakeholders that are needed to grow the Autogas business worldwide. We are actively engaging the others to tell them about the benefits of Autogas as an alternative transport fuel.
For a successful Autogas business there has to be support not only from vehicle manufactures but also Government, equipment manufacturers, consumers, lawmakers and all other stakeholders.
How does Autogas compare with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)?
CNG is a fine automotive fuel but it is very different to Autogas. The low-pressure liquefaction of LP Gas means that both on-site and on-vehicle storage is relatively inexpensive. Storage tanks are lighter, allowing greater payload, and unlike CNG there is virtually no noise during the filling operation.
Because it can be economically transported in its liquid state, LP Gas is readily distributed directly to users and marketed alongside gasoline and diesel in virtually any location. CNG distribution is generally restricted to the natural gas grid.
Vehicles running on CNG have a restricted range because of the additional weight of the storage tank and also the limited amount of energy that can be stored.
One volume of liquid LP Gas produces 250 times its volume as a vapour. So you can see that the ability of LP Gas to be liquefied easily enables an enormous amount of energy to be carried, resulting in much longer journeys per tank full.
Autogas stands between compressed natural gas (CNG) and gasoline & diesel in terms of carbon content. Consequently it delivers significant CO2 benefits compared with the liquid fuels and in its unburned form it is essentially greenhouse neutral.
Is Autogas safe?
Absolutely, Autogas has been around for a very long time and the experience the industry has built up over the decades has led to a very safe track record. Take the storage tank for example. It is built to withstand vehicle impact at high speed, something that gasoline and diesel tanks are not designed to do.
Over the years sensible standards and codes of practice have been developed and nowadays a country wishing to introduce Autogas for the first time has many good best practices to apply from other countries.
Does Autogas perform as well as gasoline and diesel?
Take the Autogas challenge - In Spain, Repsol has been working closely with Driving schools to change their fleets from diesel to Autogas. Driving schools would not be prepared to do that if their customers complained about performance. As I said earlier, Autogas has tremendous properties as an engine fuel.
How can Autogas be called an ‘alternative’ when it is a fossil fuel?
Although LP Gas is derived from crude oil and natural gas it has characteristics and properties that are very different to a typical fossil fuel. It is cleaner in every respect and does not deserve to be put into the same bracket as fossil fuel. We believe it behaves more like an alternative to traditional engine fuels and therefore we talk about it as such. The World LP Gas Association published a comparative study last year that demonstrated the lower-carbon properties of LP Gas.
Will there be enough LP Gas in the future to meet the increased demand for Autogas?
There is plenty of LP Gas for decades to come. Natural gas processing continues to be the largest source of LP Gas supply, accounting for nearly 60% of total worldwide production. Natural gas fields continue to be developed around the world ensuring a good source of LP Gas for the foreseeable future.
What are the countries where Autogas is most popular?
The top ten countries are South Korea, Turkey, Poland, Japan, Australia, Russian Federation, Italy, Mexico, Thailand and the USA. Autogas is also popular in smaller countries like Hong Kong where it was introduced in 1995. Now all of Hong Kong’s taxis run on dedicated Autogas vehicles, mainly Toyota, and the impact on local air quality in the city has been phenomenal.
Fifteen years ago the streets of Hong Kong were impacted by diesel emissions but nowadays you can breathe easily there.
Why is Autogas so successful in these particular countries?
First of all a successful Autogas business needs Government support to encourage people to convert their cars. This can be in the form of grants for conversions combined with fiscal incentives to ensure the price per litre of Autogas is around half that of petrol, or even that of diesel. This will encourage a sustained Autogas business because it provides the consumer with the financial incentive to switch.
The advantages for society is improved local air quality and lower health costs.
What advice would you give our readers if they can’t get Autogas in their country?
Get in touch with the GAIN network by contacting the WLPGA. You can do that through the web site at www.worldlpgas.com. We are keen to assist in spreading the word about Autogas and if there is anything we can do to encourage this wonderful third fuel to become more popular around the world we will do it.
The benefits are there to be seen. Cleaner air quality, lower health costs and more efficient motoring; all without any loss of performance.