I love alternative fuels. I’m on my third LPG car, which is the perhaps the most widespread and cheapest alternative fuel in Europe, and I thank my stars every day for having converted my Volvo to run on it. Currently, fuel prices are so staggeringly high that I’d have to consider staying at home a lot more than I do. When I first started driving my first LPG-burning Citroen, diesel was around €0,88, while LPG was around €0.5. Money-wise, it was cheaper to run a diesel, since it got mileage that was good enough to offset the price difference between the two types of fuel. However, the considerable difference in price when buying the cars to start with made LPG the far more sensible choice, since the cost of buying a petrol car and pay for the conversion was far, far less than buying an equivalent diesel. For example, my S60 (2.3-litre five cylinder turbo, with 130,000km/80,000 miles on the odometer) cost €11,000 plus nearly €2,000 to get it converted, while an equivalent D5 version (2.4-litre five cylinder turbo, same mileage), would set me back €15,500+. And I’d have to drive a lot to compensate for those extra €2,500 price difference. In fact, I’d have to have driven round the clock as soon as I got it because not long after, diesel prices rose so steeply that since then diesel is no longer the less expensive way to get around. Especially in 2012.

Let’s crunch some quick numbers to you can get the idea. Diesel now costs around €1.49 a litre. LPG costs €0.75 (I’m rounding the numbers in favour of diesel, to drive the point home). Now, I get around 8.8l/100km (32.1mpg) on an average journey with a car full of people, luggage and air-conditioning. An equivalent diesel will do around 5l/100km (56.5mpg). LPG saves €0.90 per 100km, and though that might not sound like much, over the lifetime of a car that’s a lot of lolly.

Anyway, this might not hold true tomorrow since LPG prices are set to go up in the near future, but either way, I stand by my logic. However, if you already own a diesel, you might be interested in something I found out yesterday (though it’s been around for yonks): dual-fuel LPG/diesel cars. In a nutshell, cars that inject 66% diesel and 34% LPG into the cylinder. From what I’ve read, the result is smoother running, more power and torque, and significant fuel economy (20-30%). The bottom line is a 5l/100km car now drinks some 2.5l of diesel plus a litre or so of LPG. That’s half the amount of normal fuel plus some half price fuel. Personally, I think it sounds great and I’d jump at the chance, if I had a diesel, except for one small snag. The cost of fitting an LPG kit to a diesel can be around €2000, and offsetting that value can take a jolly long time. Even if you save €1.50 per 100km, you’d have to do around 130,000km (80,000 mile)s to compensate the investment, and considering you’ll probably be converting a used car that’s clocked 150,000km (as most converted cars – no-one wants to tinker with a relatively new car), it might not even last that long. Compare that to LPG cars, where even an expensive conversion like mine paid off after 30,000km.

Either way, it’s an interesting alternative, and might be worth it given the right set of circumstances.


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