There is a simple way that motorists could cut their fuel costs in half. So how come more people don’t take it up?
There are now 160,000 LPG vehicles on British roads, and those motorists are paying 75p per litre, half the cost of petrol or diesel. However, uncertainty about how long the Treasury will continue to back LPG via the existing tax differential means manufacturers and motorists are unwilling to invest in the technology.
Paul Blacklock, Head of Strategy and Corporate Affairs at
Calor Gas Ltd, explains that across Europe, consumers can buy LPG models from VW, Opel, BMW and other desirable marques.
Here in the UK if you want an LPG vehicle, your choice is restricted to a Proton.
“The Government decided to put all its focus onto electric vehicles,” he explains.
“This encouraged car manufacturers to put their emphasis and effort onto electric, while other European governments have put emphasis on LPG. For example, the German government not just have a low rate of duty, but have guaranteed it for 10 years.
“Because of the lack of certainty here the car manufacturers are unwilling to make those cars available in the UK.”
The LPG network is well-developed, and was built without public subsidy.
There are 1,400 refuelling points covering rural and urban areas and motorways.
“We are simply asking from Government a commitment to maintain the differential for a longer time frame, so that fleet managers and individual motorists have the confidence to invest in a product that will continue to deliver benefits for a reasonable period,” says Mr Blacklock.
He describes the lack of certainty as “a rolling death row” that is creating a lack of confidence in the LPG.
Ironically, the Mini LPG cars sold in Europe are made here in the UK, while the Opels for the EU market are converted to LPG in British factories.
“Consumers have got fuel on the forecourt but can’t buy a car,” says Mr Blacklock.
“Everyone is concerned about the high cost of fuel, and here we have a fuel that is the answer to everyone prayers. LPG has been used as a road fuel for 40 years, is clean and there is no loss of performance, the concern that you have with electric cars.
“All we are asking the government for is some level of certainty so the car manufacturers have the confidence to make the cars for the UK.”
The LPG car market was encouraged by the Government 15 years ago, amid concerns about air quality, and
Calor Gasand others were encouraged to develop the national refuelling infrastructure. There are around160,000 LPG vehicles in the UK.
The arrival of Polish immigrants provided a boost, as LPG vehicles are popular there.
“This is the second time the LPG market has been created,” explains Mr Blacklock.
“They did this in the early 1980s, and then withdrew the fuel tax benefit and everyone switched to diesel.”
There are more than seven million LPG vehicles in Europe, with 1.7 million in Italy alone.
“Consider that London is choking to death with some of the worst air quality in Europe,” says Mr Blacklock.
“The Mayor used to exempt LPG vehicles from the congestion charge, but when Boris Johnson was elected he had his head turned by the promise of electric vehicles and removed the exemption.
“Yet LPG has up to 95% less particulates and nitrogen oxide emissions than diesel.”
The British duty differential rate is only confirmed by the Government at each annual Budget – no long term commitment exists. Mr Blacklock is hopeful that Chancellor George Osborne will listen and learn from the European experience and guarantee the duty exemption for LPG in the long term.
“Every single MP we have spoken to has said they are happy to support us,” he says.
“We need to get the country motoring again, and LPG helps reduce cost to business and get the economy moving.”