The continual rise of petrol prices puts a squeeze on all motorists, but is likely to be felt most acutely by those who travel long distances and rely on their vehicles for their livelihood.
If you’re feeling the pinch, should you switch vehicle? Not necessarily, as it turns out – you could make significant savings by converting your engine to run on LPG.
How much does LPG cost?
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is a low carbon-emitting fuel, so it’s better for the environment than petrol, to the tune of around 20 per cent.
And as incentive for converting engines to run on LPG, you pay a good deal less duty on it. It costs approximately 40 per cent less than petrol, and is around 20 per cent cheaper than diesel.
Of course, the initial outlay isn’t that cheap. It can cost between £1,500 and £2,000 to convert your engine to run off LPG, depending on the weight of your van and the number of cylinders.
A fair whack, but it can be recouped quite quickly. Assuming you have to pay the high end for your conversion, it’ll pay for itself in 18 months if you drive 12,000 miles a year – and it’ll pay for itself within the year if you drive 18,000.
LPG Auto Conversions have helpfully put an LPG savings calculator on their site, which can help you with your budgeting (assuming you currently have a petrol engine).
100 per cent Congestion Charge discount
There are further benefits too. If you live or work in London, then driving an LPG vehicle can get you a 100 per cent reduction off the Congestion Charge.
So if you work in Congestion Charge areas on most days in the year, this saving can run into four figures.
All LPG vehicles listed in band four of the PowerShift Register are exempt from the charge when you register with Transport for London (TfL).
There’s a fee of £10 a year, which is worth it even if you visit London only twice in that time.
Note : Since the time of writing, the PowerShift Register has been discontinued. It has been replaced by the Greener Vehicles Discount (GVD), which gives discounts to vehicles which emit 100g/km or less of CO2, and which meet the Euro 5 standard for air quality.
To find out more about registering for the discount, visit Transport for London's website.
How to get it installed
The conversion has to be performed by an Approved LPG Autogas Installer. As LPG is highly flammable, it really is best not to go DIY.
You can find an Approved LPG Autogas Installer here at the DriveLPG site, which is incredibly useful and informative throughout.
The downside of using LPG
The main disadvantage of using LPG is that not all petrol stations sell it. Plus a full tank of LPG usually won’t get you as far as a tank of petrol. So it’s a good idea to plan your route efficiently in advance, taking stations that sell LPG into account.
This is becoming less of a problem as time passes, as the number of vendors is increasing, and now exceeds 1,400 nationwide.
If you’re the cautious type, it’s worth noting that you can have your vehicle converted to run off both fuels – so you will still be able to use petrol to avoid being stranded.
Another con of having an LPG conversion is that the tank takes up a lot of space.
This may or may not be a problem for you depending on your usual load, but if you’re unsure, it’s worth having a chat with an installer before committing.