The LPG industry was out in force last month trying to wake up the powers that be in the UK to the economic and environmental benefits of LPG.
Firstly a lobby group called on Government to promote the use of LPG at an event at the Houses of Parliament. Later in the month celebrity motoring journalist Quentin Willson used the relaunch of the Autogas brand (see right hand column) to vent his anger at the "absurd" situation in which the government appears deaf to the benefits of this "proven and trusted" fuel.
The LPG industry lobby met at a Parliamentary reception hosted by Lord Chris Smith, former head of the Environment Agency, and called on the government to adopt a series of measures which could help improve air quality in the UK and avoid further EU fines for air pollution violations.
Speaking at the launch of the LPG Autogas Blueprint, A Low Carbon Alternative Fuel for Today, chief executive of the UKLPG trade association, Rob Shuttleworth, identified a number of key actions the government should adopt to deliver improved air quality and lower carbon emissions across the UK. He said: "Liquefied Petroleum Gas is an incredibly versatile, plentiful and clean fuel which deserves greater recognition for its air quality credentials. Through our work with policy makers in Europe and the Blueprint launched this month, we are calling on the UK government to overtly promote an integrated road fuels strategy that sets out a framework for all fuels, including LPG Autogas.
"Additionally, we ask that consideration is given to a limited incentive programme to remove the most polluting vehicles from the UK’s roads, which should offer the option of converting to LPG Autogas. Furthermore, we call on the government to implement a level playing field by setting the same duty rate for all gaseous fuels to achieve fuel parity in the UK."
Also present at the launch, environmental expert Dr Eric Johnson outlined the low-carbon benefits of LPG Autogas. Citing data from an independent German test facility, Dr Johnson explained: "In environmental terms LPG Autogas cars came out similarly to CNG cars and ahead of petrol and diesel. Compared to petrol and diesel, LPG Autogas cars are lower carbon. Compared to diesel, LPG is lower on pollutants that are harmful to human health."
Shadow Transport Minister, Richard Burden MP, also called for a much more comprehensive vision for the future of road transport, recognising the LPG Autogas Blueprint as an important contribution to the debate. Speaking to UKLPG representatives at the launch, he argued that the quest for personal mobility should not be seen as exclusive to the demands of a low carbon economy.
The launch of the Blueprint comes after reports that London’s Oxford Street already breached environmental legal limits set by the EU for the whole of 2015, in the space of just four days at the start of the year. In 2014, the UK faced a fine of £300m from the EU for failing to meet air pollution targets.
The UK has an air pollution crisis, it says, with current government plans not destined to meet nitrogen dioxide limits until after 2030 20 years after the original deadline. It claims diesel fumes are the main source of nitrogen dioxide (NO2, a harmful gas linked with heart attacks and asthma).
A Sunday Times report last November reported on data which found that ’dirty diesel’ road traffic may be to blame for up to 60,000 early deaths each year, a tenth of Britain’s annual toll.
And last year Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced plans to charge diesel drivers an extra £10 to drive in the capital. It came amid a storm of publicity about how more than 10 million motorists had been misled into buying diesel believing it to be cleaner by tax incentives introduced by the government in 2001.
But according to Quentin Willson, who describes himself as an "evanglical supporter" of LPG, "ministers and MPs are woefully badly informed when it comes to transport, road transport particularly. They will be advised by people who also don’t know".
The Mayor has set out a roadmap for compliance by London with European air quality standards, the centre piece of which is a proposed ULEZ ultra low emission zone mirroring, geographically, the current congestion charging zone in central London. Under the scheme all vehicles driving in central London will be required to meet tough emissions standards, or risk steep daily charges. HGVs, commercial or personal vehicles running on LPG autogas to Euro 5 standards will fall within the scheme that comes into place in 2020 a demonstration that vehicles running on LPG autogas are already as environmentally friendly as TfL will be demanding in 15 years’ time.
Back to the Quentin Willson: "We’ve got companies like Vauxhall and Ford, making LPG cars here in the UK, but putting steering wheels on the other side, and exporting them to Europe where there is a hungry market, because they can’t sell them here.
"We have consumers who want to go and buy used LPG cars, cars that have been converted, and the supply of those is so limited that they are actually paying more for a converted LPG used car, than its conventional petrol or diesel counterpart. So the demand is there, but how can you blame the car manufacturers when they can’t build a business around an uncertain strategy from a government that really, really isn’t listening. Our role is to go out and spread this message. Go and convince MPs and ministers and officials of the benefits of this fuel, and the imperative, that if we consider ourselves a leading edge first world economy with a joined up road transport strategy, we should be looking at this much more seriously than we are at the moment.
"What we all need to ask for is very simple for the government to look at this fuel properly and see that it stands very close scrutiny,
"This is so ridiculous you couldn’t make it up."
fresh new look for autogas
Drivers looking for a cheaper and cleaner alternative to petrol and diesel are to be tempted back to another established fuel source following a major rebranding exercise by leading LPG supplier Autogas Limited, the joint-venture company formed by Shell and Calor in 2000.
The new brand identity is to be rolled out across the company’s 215 refuelling sites across the UK which are used by more than 150,000 drivers whose vehicles are powered by the low-priced fuel.
"LPG autogas provides motorists with a breath of fresh air and we’re delighted to launch our new identity which reflects these attributes much more closely," explains Linda Gomersall, general manager of Autogas. "Our product is clean and modern and it’s fantastic news for motorists that our rejuvenated brand echoes these qualities. What’s more, this considerable investment will give further confidence to users that LPG autogas has a significant future in the UK, hopefully encouraging more to convert to the greener fuel."
The first site to feature the new branding is the Shell filling station at Stirling Corner in Barnet. The site now features a new range of highly visual graphics, raising further awareness of the cheaper, cleaner fuel and helping drivers to identify more easily the location of the LPG dispenser on site. In addition to the new site branding, Autogas has also installed a brand new devisser-style dispenser at the site, making refuelling even easier than before. As part of a £1 million investment programme, similar upgrades to the rest of Autogas’ refuelling network are expected to be completed throughout 2015.
The company has also launched a new website which provides motorists with a wealth of information about the cost-saving, health and environmental advantages of LPG autogas; an interactive savings calculator; as well as helping them find a quality specialist service centre that can convert their car to run on the fuel.
The website (www.autogaslimited.co.uk) also features a series of case studies about businesses and individuals who have all saved thousands of pounds by switching to the fuel. A map (linked to Google Maps for easy smartphone use) shows the locations of the 1,400 LPG refuelling sites around the UK.