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28 Nov 2017
Owe Carter Owe Carter

Should I convert my van to LPG?

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The rise of petrol prices puts a squeeze on all motorists, especially when you use your vehicle for work. But are there better fuel options to consider?

Van driving on dual carriageway

If you’re feeling the pinch, should you switch vehicle? With electric and hybrid vehicles becoming more widely available, it’s worth considering. 

But if you don’t want to get rid of your van completely, another option is an LPG conversion. Which could also provide significant van insurance savings.

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%.

And as incentive for converting engines to run on LPG, you pay a good deal less duty on it. Fuel costs are reduced, around half the price of petrol and diesel. Other benefits include reduced parking rates and VED (commonly known as road tax).

Of course, the initial cost isn’t that cheap. Getting an LPG conversion can cost between £1,500 and £2,000, depending on the weight of your van and the number of cylinders.

It’s 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 has helpfully put an LPG savings calculator on its site. This can help you with your budgeting, assuming you currently have a petrol engine.

How do I install LPG?

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.

LPG engine check

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.

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If you’re the cautious type, it’s worth noting that you can have your vehicle converted to run off both fuels. So you’ll 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.

You’ll also have to inform your insurer if you’ve had LPG installed too, as it’s technically a modification.

This may or may not be a problem for you depending on your usual load. If you’re unsure though, it’s worth having a chat with an installer before committing.

What are the other fuel options?

As well as LPG, there are further economical vehicle options for van drivers

Hydrogen-fuelled cars contain a fuel cell with a mix of hydrogen and oxygen inside. This combination creates electricity. Unfortunately, though there are only a handful of charging stations in the UK.

Electric vehicles run on electricity only. You can’t convert your existing vehicle to run on electricity though, so it would mean buying new.

Hybrid vehicles have one or more means of propulsion. This could be a combination of petrol or diesel with an electric motor.

Vans parked in a row

All of these technologies are relatively new. And chances are when you buy an new model, a couple of months later a new version may be released. Unfortunately, this will affect the resale value.

In addition, many of these different fuel types mean investing in a new vehicle altogether, rather than a conversion. Which would bump up the cost further.

Insurance premiums may be affected too, as these vehicles contain parts that are still new to mechanics, and insurers.

Although an investment at first, alternatively-fuelled vehicles do offer discounts. For example, zero emissions vehicles are completely exempt from the congestion charge, as well as road tax.

The government is also investing in ways to reduce vehicle emissions. This includes a scheme to allow drivers to operate heavier electric or gas-powered vehicles without having to apply for a new licence.

All things considered, it’s a big decision to trade in or convert your van to a more economical model. But these technologies are still in there early stages, and with investment by the government more schemes could be introduced to cut costs further.

Presently though, if you don’t want to invest in a new vehicle, perhaps converting to LPG could be a better option.

 

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