LPG van conversion - what you need to know
Is your van’s fuel bill out of control? An LPG conversion could cut your cost of filling up by up to 40% – plus make every journey ‘greener’.
What’s an LPG conversion?
Much kinder to your pocket and the environment, there’s much to like about LPG for vans. LPG stands for Liquefied Petroleum Gas and as it’s taxed lower than petrol and diesel, you pay less.
Much less. Currently (July 2021) LPG costs around 60-65p a litre. That’s around £2.70 a gallon thanks to LPG duty being far lower compared to petrol and diesel.
Contrast this to £1.30-£1.45p a litre for petrol and diesel – equivalent to £5.90-plus a gallon. Not bad!
You can buy LPG across more than 1,250 UK fuel station forecourts. So, you never have to drive far to fuel up. Many are open 24/7 too.
LPG kicks out 90% less nitrogen oxide (NOx) than diesel. As it produces fewer particulates, it’s better for your engine’s health and our shared environment.
So why aren’t more vans running on LPG?
Well, the LPG conversion cost is a bit more than pocket money. You might have to shell out as much as £2,000. Perhaps more in some cases.
If you drive 12,000 miles a year you should recoup much or all that cash inside 18 months.
Also, LPG isn’t as efficient as petrol or diesel. You get less ‘per gallon’ than diesel or petrol.
But the savings could still be chunky. And the longer you keep your van going, the bigger the savings might get.
Does LPG conversion affect van insurance?
If you convert your van to LPG you must tell your van insurance provider. That’s because any conversion will likely be classed as a modification.
And van modifications could see your van insurance costs go up.
Once your van’s converted it’s placed on the Liquid Gas UK Vehicle Register. This helps to protect its resale value, longer term.
Being eco-conscious on the road usually means driving in a more defensive, measured manner.
So, environmentally-minded drivers could be thought of as a lower risk, which could result in lower insurance costs.
So, an LPG conversion could trim your annual insurance bill too. But why not chat with your insurer before converting so you know just where you stand?
And, as we often say, it’s worth shopping around for an policy that suits your needs and your wallet. If you're looking for other ways to cut your van insurance costs, check out our guide on how to save on your van insurance.
What are the drawbacks of LPG?
LPG isn’t as fuel efficient as diesel or petrol. You might see a 15-20% rise in fuel consumption as a result.
That means there’s less range running on LPG only – though with two fuel tanks you’ve got more range overall.
An LPG tank also needs an annual check-up. But LPG’s per litre cost saving means you’re still way ahead!
You can use services like DriveLPG and apps like AutogasApp UK to help you track down their nearest local fuel suppliers with little fuss.
So, if you plan ahead a bit you should be fine. For those taking the LPG plunge, your fuel savings might normally clear the set-up costs after 18-24 months max.
One LPG downer that doesn’t get much attention is van choice. A lack of demand for non-diesel vans means a somewhat sparse model menu, unfortunately.
This is particularly true when buying new.
It’s a bit of a vicious circle – the lack of supply means a lack of demand.
But as we get nearer a net-zero world, it could be that cleaner-burning LPG becomes part of the used van market for some time.
There’s one more downside. For health and safety reasons, LPG-equipped and dual-fuel vehicles aren’t allowed in the Channel Tunnel.
You’re fine to cross to France by ferry but it’s a big ‘non’ from Eurotunnel for LPG vehicles – at least for the time being.
How much does LPG conversion cost?
Adapting your petrol van to LPG can be on the steep side. We’ve seen prices as low as £1,200 but also as high as £3,000. Much depends on the age of your vehicle.
We’ll explain this. If your van’s relatively new, its engine might rely on a direct injection system.
Typically, direct injection engines are more fuel efficient. They generate more power and better fuel economy, sometimes from smaller engine capacity.
But traditional LPG conversion systems aren’t a great fit for modern engines built to withstand tough emissions standards.
So, a quick rule of thumb is this.
The newer the tech the more expensive an LPG conversion might cost. This directly affects your break-even point after conversion, remember. So, do your own maths to reach your view.
If you’re considering LPG long-term, call around some installers in advance. DriveLPG has an approved list of installers.
Dutch alternative fuel company Prins, however, does offer LPG systems for modern vans and cars.
Is it worth converting my van to LPG?
LPG costs around 60-65p a litre. That’s around £2.70 a gallon.
The reason? Government duty on LPG is far lower. At the time of writing, petrol and diesel typically costs between £1.30-£1.45 a litre.
That’s equal to £5.85-£6.50 a gallon. So yes, the savings could be substantial..
As for safety, independent tests show that LPG is at least as safe in a crash as a petrol vehicle.
That’s partly because LPG containers tend to be made of thick-gauge material. This rigidity is important in the evant of a crash.
Watch out for congestion charging. If your petrol van meets Transport for London’s (TfL) Euro 4 emissions standards then it should be compliant with the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). You can check on the TfL website.
For diesel vans the Euro 6 standard must be met for TfL. There are retrofit options through the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme.
From 25 October 2021, TfL’s cleaner vehicle discount changes – only battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are eligible. And from 25 December 2025, this discount evaporates too.
Can I convert my diesel van to LPG?
You can but the savings aren’t so spectacular. Also, one of the main benefits of diesel is that it gives you more range compared with petrol-powered vehicles.
If you run mainly on LPG, that advantage tends to get lost.
Overall, the combination of diesel and LPG doesn’t do much for emissions or air quality. It’s probably not worth your while.
While most vans are diesel-powered, petrol van sales are rising because of the reputation of ‘dirty diesel’.
This is a slight shame as the latest diesel Euro 6-engined vehicles are highly efficient and relatively ‘green’.
If you’re in the market for a new van, it could be worth considering your electric van options too. Especially if you do a lot of short hops or city centre stop/start driving.
How do I install LPG in my van?
Get your van conversion done from an approved installer. The LPG installation process is highly technical, and not one for the weekend DIY-er, however confident or capable.
There's a list of fitters on the Liquid Gas UK website, who are the UK trade body for LPG.
Your insurance company might much prefer an official conversion too.
Bear in mind that if you do attempt to modify your vehicle in any way, your insurance policy could become more expensive or even invalid. It’s no different with LPG!
Pros and cons of LPG:
- An LPG-powered van should be much cheaper to run than petrol and diesel vans. That’s because government duty on LPG is much lower.
- LPG-powered vans are far better for the environment than diesel and petrol vans. They burn less nitrogen oxide (NOx) which is harmful to our lungs.
- There’s little difference in LPG performance versus ‘normal’ petrol performance.
- Its ‘under the radar’ image means you might get reduced tax. Sometimes it pays to be less popular!
- Residual value could be strong, especially in areas affected by congestion charging.
- With twin fuel tanks – both LPG and petrol – your overall range goes up.
- Most LPG car tanks are installed where your spare wheel is. But van LPG options can be more varied and flexible.
LPG conversion costs could take at least 18-24 months to recoup – possibly more.
An LPG conversion adds weight to a van making it less economical, in some cases. This might also affect its ultimate payload potential.
There’s less re-fuelling availability compared to petrol and diesel – but this is improving all the time.
An LPG system needs annual servicing checks.
Some LPG conversions can be complex. Much depends on the size and layout of your vehicle and when it was built. The newer the vehicle is, the more expensive a conversion could be.
What are the other fuel options for my van?
Much of it will depend on your van budget. There’s, yes, an electric ‘revolution’ out there. But it’s an expensive one for many pockets.
Vans are changing too. Traditionally payload – the overall weight you can safely load – has been a manufacturing priority.
But demand among couriers for low emissions vehicles doing ‘last mile’ hops means cargo volume is now just as important.
There’s still the government’s Plug-in Van Grant. This gives a maximum £6,000 off the price of a van between 2,500kg and 3,500kg.
The van has to be able to travel at least 60 miles with zero emissions. These 100% electric van models include:
- Citroen e-Dispatch
- Fiat e-Ducato
- Maxus eDeliver 3
- Mercedes eSprinter
- Renault Master ZE
- Toyota Proace Electric
- Vauxhall Vivaro-e
- VW ABT-e-Transporter.
There’s also up to £3,000 off the list price for small vans. You can also still get up to £350 off the cost of a home charger via the government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme.
What about hybrid vans?
Hybrid vans have electric motors added to their petrol or diesel engines. The Ford Transit Custom Plug-In is a good example.
But for long distances, think carefully about electric motor and petrol (or diesel) combinations. A traditional arrangement might serve better – including LPG conversions.
The initial outlay could also be high. The UK has no self-charging hybrid commercial vans. The market’s too small for van makers to bother with.
For most van makers, it makes better commercial sense to go straight to the 100% electric market. But pay attention to battery sizes, which could affect your ultimate driving range.
Battery size might also affect payload too.
How do you fill a van with LPG?
It’s easy and similar to filing up with petrol or diesel. First, turn off the engine!
Take the fuel nozzle out of the pump holdall, as normal. Your van’s LPG fuel entry point will usually be fixed on the side of the vehicle.
Push the fuel nozzle over your LPG tank fuel lugs.
Turn the small pump barrel clock-wise to ‘lock’. After this you squeeze the nozzle grip into the ‘open’ position.
After this, push the ‘on’ or ‘flow’ button on the LPG pump itself. This will automatically stop refilling your car when full up.
When you then release the filler nozzle, it’s common to hear the sound of a little gas escaping. This is quite normal.
Then, twist the barrel anti-clock-wise and replace in the holdall.
If you’re travelling in Europe and you’re filling up an LPG tank – possibly for a motorhome – you may need convertor connectors. You can buy these online.
They usually go under the name of LPG Travel Adapter Kit – or something similar. There are different connectors for different countries.
If you’re doing long Continental hauls, get a complete set then bury them deep in the glove box. You never know when they’ll come in handy.