By on March 14, 2009

Robert Hefner, the author of The GET: The Grand Energy Transition, believes we should use LPG as a bridge to an EV future. He points out there are eight million vehicles in the world that operate on natural gas—though only 150,000 those are in the USA. Americans have invested nearly four trillion dollars in large cars, SUVs and trucks. Hefner asks whether we seriously intend to throw them away? Of course not, he says, and then he suggests that they should be converted to running on LPG. How difficult is that, you ask? Not much; a day’s work. (I know, my 1998 Jeep Cherokee is now a hybrid, running on gasoline or LPG at the press of a button.) Hefner says we should “retrofit all those vehicles that are now running on gas.”

Today it costs maybe $3,000 to retrofit an ICE engine to dual-use, but Hefner sees future retrofit costs of $1,500, when the number of cars being retrofitted rises.

He states the obvious: that we’d be using existing distribution infrastructure, and that we’d  create a window for development of better batteries and EV solutions, while actually reducing emissions. He points out that there’s abundant LPG if we just start using it correctly.

What can I say? I just spent a couple of minutes filling LPG in the tank in my Cherokee, and it actually runs smoother on gas than on gasoline, at half the running cost, with seriously reduced CO2 emissions.

Hefner discussed The GET at the Aspen Institute recently. For the video, click here.

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32 Comments on “LPG for Me...”

  • avatar

    So this guy wants to spend $30 billion converting vehicles from one fossil fuel to another fossil fuel?

    I think we might more ‘bang for our buck’ by taking that same money and buying a million Chevy Volts (assuming we can get them at a ‘bulk buy’ discount of $30k each)?

    Or how about 2 million Honda Insights (assuming a $15k bulk buy price)?

    Furthermore, I think he’s glossing over the infrastructure issues. Yes, we currently have an LPG/propane delivery infrastructure, but it’s scaled for most people visiting twice a year to fill their BBQ tank, not millions of people visiting once or twice a week to fill a vehicle tank.

  • avatar

    Once we have a lot of LPG vehicles on the road we will trade one monopoly for another. It’s still a resource to be pumped from the ground and government at all levels will levy taxes and restrictions on drilling for it. Eventually we will end up importing LPG from people who don’t like us.

    LPG cars usually have lower performance and top speed than gasoline equivalents. Some of this might be engineered out for optimized cars.

    In Korea and Japan all the taxis in urban areas use LPG and it’s economical as hell. If we could keep the government from taxing it to death through road taxes it would be worth it to most people, especially commuters. But the current fad is electric cars and bio diesel along with not using a car at all.

  • avatar

    Converting to gas (CNG or LPG)is a good idea if the aim is lower cost and dependence on foreign energy. However, it does nothing for our little CO2 problem. There is also a downside in that the LPG tank will use up a big chunk of the trunk space after the conversion.

    buzzliteyear is also correct in pointing out that the current gas delivery infrastructure is just not geared for the type of quantities that we would need with a large scale conversion.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    I think it’s important to recognize that the conversion won’t happen overnight. Hefner states the case very well both in his book and in the full version of the linked Aspen Institute discussion: there’s a hell of a lot of LPG out there, it’s just not being used, or used right. (And we have spent decades burning off gas with flares, of course, still do.)

    His main argument is that we have a large installed base of vehicles that people will be loath to just dump, and that can be made to run on something other than regular gasoline.

    As to the “trunk space” argument – there are gas tanks shaped to fit in the spare wheel compartment … you wouldn’t know it was there. Yes, mine eats some trunk space, but nothing major. It’s a 70 litre tank, and takes up the space of a large tote bak. Still room on top for lots of stuff.

    Hefner’s argument is worth listening to … in toto. He states the point that many miss: energy required to run EVs has to come from somewhere, and today, that’s from coal fired plants, more often than not. If we do a pure EV transition, a lot of the larger vehicles are scrap; if we do an LPG-while developing EV-transition it’s just a better case.

  • avatar

    @ carguy :

    Converting to gas (CNG or LPG)is a good idea if the aim is lower cost and dependence on foreign energy. However, it does nothing for our little CO2 problem. There is also a downside in that the LPG tank will use up a big chunk of the trunk space after the conversion.

    Incorrect. LPG burns much much cleaner than Petrol, and if the converted vehicles are to be run on LPG alone and not set up as dual fuel vehicles, there is no reason for extra space to be used. Just replace the OEM petrol tank.

    LPG has been very popular back home in Australia. All taxis run on it, most courier vehicles and due to government subsidies, an increasing number of private vehicles. Ford will even sell you an EGas version of the Falcon.

    I have owned a couple of LPG fueled vehicles, and while there might be a slight performance loss, the economic benefits more than make up for it.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I actually considered using a Ford Crown Victoria that ran on natural gas a couple years ago.

    Unfortunately there was only one place to fill the thing up in all of metro-Atlanta.. and that place was far away from my auctions.

    I also looked at using biodiesel for awhile. Eventually the opportunity to sell the car for a $4k profit outweighed all the hassle of either developing my own sources or using a couple of stations with widely varying quality.

    This is one of those cases where we will literally have to bring in the water before we can get the horse to drink it. I definitely agree with the potential environmental and trade impacts of natural gas. But we would need a lot of will and long-term investment to make it work.

  • avatar

    This makes sense within limits, as has been said, we don’t need to go “whole hog” (establish a massive LPG infrastructure), but include this strategy as part of a group of “bridge” technologies to future transportation methods.

    I hope the energy policy of the new administration is looking at this idea, and could possibly subsidize a modest number of conversions (via tax credits), and a modest increase in the number of LPG filling stations in the ‘burbs and inner metro areas.

  • avatar

    I agree about the infrastructure argument. We have three LPG sources in our small town and if any of them suddenly had 100 vehicles coming by each week to refuel then I’m sure they’d upgrade their fill facilities.

    Same goes for EVs.

    If EVs begin reaching the road in sizable numbers that TVA notices then they’ll begin adjusting their systems to compensate. If enough people are driving them around town then somebody (retailers, restaurants, etc) will decide that they might capture a few new customers by adding charging stations.

    We’ve seen the infrastructure added in CA for EVs and then no EVs to charge. I doubt too many gov’ts or companies will repeat that mistake.

    That’s why I keep harping on getting EVs out NOW. Let the early adopters start using them and living with them. This will begin to mature the technology (higher capacity batteries is all that is left to work on) and the infrastructure will begin to be installed. We’ve got the NiMH batteries that Chevron has locked up and the Lithium batteries look promising except for some aging issues I’ve read about.

    When I lived in Italy there were alot of vehicles running LPG b/c it was taxed lower. Alot of commercial vehicles were running it. Some in addition to the OEM gasoline and some instead of. The tanks were large but those weren’t often adjusted to the vehicle’s size or shape .That’s the only thing that would keep me from considering it – but I have done zero research on what current tanks look like.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Jack Roush has some interesting propaganda on his website concerning his propane conversion business. If you look hard enough, there’s also a number of quality videos regarding F150 and F250 conversions.

    My gut is telling me that Jack Roush and many others like him, are positioning themselves to take advantage of future Federal money to “develop” these alternative fuel technologies. Yes, I know the technology is already here, but we all know how this game is played.

    See, it really is all about going green.

  • avatar

    If we could keep the government from taxing it to death through road taxes it would be worth it to most people, especially commuters…

    You are going to drive your car on the road, aren’t you? Then why shouldn’t you pay your fair share of road taxes like everybody else? If you would like minimal tax or tax credits to jump start the conversion “craze”, fine. But eventually, there will have to be parity with all fuels. What really pisses me off is when taxes collected for infrastructure use get siphoned off to fill holes in the general budget. NY state is famous for this; no doubt others are too.

  • avatar

    Can you guys put a disclosure at the top of the article that says something to the effect of “Robert A. Hefner III is Founder and Owner of GHK Exploration (, a private natural gas company headquartered in Oklahoma City.” so that we all know exactly where this guy is coming from? To say he has a vested interest in this would be putting it mildly.

  • avatar

    LPG is an oil byproduct and every barrel we import has a certain fraction of LPG (and a fraction of gasoline, diesel, tar…). what would we do with all the gasoline then? and I assume we already use up all the LPG we get with our oil consumption for BBQ and some home heating.

    Maybe he talks about LNG (liquefied natural gas)???? that is cleaner, and plentiful (in Arabia …). but we don’t have much left either. Most is imported from Canada and Mexico (declining) and as LNG from overseas, which brings us back to the same problem we have with oil. LNG is harder to compress than LPG, so you need much energy to compress it, heavy stirdy tanks etc.

    T-Boone Pickens suggested to have electric cars and LNG-trucks because batteries for trucks seem nearly impossible with today’s technology. that guy is a genius, especially since he wants to put up huge windfarms.

    tha picture shows an LNG tanker… I don’t know of LPG tankers since we import LPG along with the liquid oil and separate the LPG in the refinery in the US, no need for ships for LPG itself.

    and his idea of us keeping those 4-ton SUVs is just ridiculous..just like W-Bush’s idea that we can keep our SUVs and jsut use corn ethanol.. . we will NEED to have smaller cars at some time, whether we like it or not. It just is not feasible to keep a heavy fleet as our. Neither electric, LPG, LNG, ethanol, biodiesel,… it’s just physics. Politics is not strong enough to overcome physics.

  • avatar

    kaleun :

    …and his idea of us keeping those 4-ton SUVs is just ridiculous..just like W-Bush’s idea that we can keep our SUVs and jsut use corn ethanol…

    Corn ethanol was not the idea or brainchild of just one President. There is one (or more than one) huge lobby behind this.

    The last I checked, we have a different president now, as well as a different Congress. If they really wanted to, the Executive and Legislative branches could “change” things anytime they wish. Obviously, they are not interested in changing current law or subsidies in this area.

    Remember, THEY are now in power, not the past President. He has no power. Therefore, these ideas, laws, and subsidies are now THEIRS.

    …Politics is not strong enough to overcome physics.

    Obviously, it has been strong enough to overcome not only physics, but also common sense.

  • avatar

    It’s a great idea, only there is not enough supply. Right now, if you can get the permits to build a facility to get the product on shore, you still can’t buy enough on the market at a price that allows you to make a profit. Look at the projects that have stopped before completion for this reason. Hundreds of millions went down that rat hole, and may never be recovered.

    At the same time, domestic supplies are going to be slowing because the new administration isn’t going to open the best fields, AND they are proposing billions in new taxes on energy companies while simultaneously raising royalties and rates on new leases.

    I am a fan of the every molecule, and the greener the better school, but our present administration and NIMBY state and local governments are not. They want someone else to do the work and pay for the privilege.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    @Landcrusher —

    Yes, LPG is a challenge. Have had some dealings with Höegh, which is a major shipper of the stuff. The headline to this blog is a little misleading, as LPG is abundantly available where I live (Norway).

    However, Hefner’s beef is that there’s abundant natural gas in the US (he’s found and developed quite a bit of it).
    From a review of his book – dealing with the natural gas reserves in the US:

    The government enacted these policies after being convinced by Exxon (XOM) that the US was running out of natural gas. Hefner’s recollection of the governmental hearings where he went toe-to-toe with big oil is fascinating. Unfortunately, the government believed Exxon instead of Hefner.

    Exxon’s testimony was that the US had a total of 300 Tcf of natural gas resources. Hefner’s estimation at the time was for US natural gas reserves to be on the order of 1,500-2,000 Tcf (his current estimate is 3,000 Tcf). History has since vindicated Mr. Hefner as now most experts estimate remaining natural gas resources at 1,500-2,000 Tcf. Governmental policies based on big oil’s faulty natural gas estimates led to huge increases in US coal and oil consumption and resulted in the “three intolerables” we face today: economic contraction, environmental degradation (including some 15-20 billion tons of CO2 from coal plant additions since 1978 that are now in our atmosphere that otherwise would not have been there!), and geopolitical and geostrategic tensions. How ironic (and tragic) that Oklahoma, the state in which Hefner and Boone Pickens call home, went from generating 95% of its electricity from natural gas to 50% from coal.

    The “real inconvenient truth,” Hefner says, is that government subsidies are impeding the adoption of abundant, cleaner and cheaper natural gas by extending the life of oil and coal well beyond what otherwise would have been their natural rates of decline. If government policy instead allowed the full external costs of coal and oil (military costs to secure supply, health care costs due to toxic emissions, environmental costs, efficiency costs, etc.) to bleed through to the consumer, the superior energy solutions of natural gas, wind, and solar would come to the fore. Natural gas would then attain its destiny as the “go-to” fuel of choice and accelerate the decline of coal and oil consumption while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

  • avatar

    The Hef, or maybe his dad, gets a mention here:

    Halfway Down the Page at Penn Square Bank

    I have to think we’re actually talking about LNG, here. Many homes are heated by NG. Prices have varied, recently, between $5/ccf and maybe $9/ccf. I’d rather pay $5. Shift enough cars to LNG and I’ll be paying $9 again.

    In fact, my home heating bill is probably higher than my automotive fuel bill. Well, it is Minnesota.

    All fossil fuels are finite resources with unfortunate side effects. Shifting from a more highly exploited one to a slightly less exploited one really accomplishes nothing.

    Although the idea has probably sold a few books.

  • avatar

    You can purchase a new Civic GX, but it has a huge price premium over a comparable gas job. It makes the hybrid variant look like a bargain.

    It only makes sense in jurisdictions like CA & VA where the social engineers give you solo carpool privileges. I’d gladly pay $10k more for a car that saved me 30min daily.

    Natural Gas works great for bus fleets. With a big “camel hump” tank on the roof of the bus the range is adequate for their operations.

    For commercial vehicles that have shorter predictable routes like package cars and Hosteling Tractors it works great.

  • avatar

    I agree, LNG along with the at-home filling stations (that Phill thing) are interesting due to their relatively low infrastructure costs and LNG does burn a bit more clean. But they’re not catching on since it’s not cost-advantageous for the consumer.

    Unfortunately, the only way to drive interest into alternatives (I don’t care if you’re talking about hybrids, diesel, solar, LPG/LNG, all-electric, big rotating flywheel) is to tax the crap out of the status quo gasoline motor to basically force people into the other areas.

    Of course doing a massive consumer-price increase of gasoline would basically stymie things in the short term. And that basically a guarantee that it would never happen since people hate to make long-term beneficial decisions if they must suffer gravely in the near-term.

    Just look at the comments most people made in this blog post (and every other post involving alternative fuel/drivetrain vehicles). The majority of consumers would rather play semantics on dollars per mile traveled; how it hits their pocket book today; and shun big government for meddling. Heck, people even cry foul about how much more it costs for a hybrid version of a car versus it’s gas-only variant… even if it’s a paltry $1,000 premium. Many responses can be summarized as “Why am I paying more than what I’m going to save? How stupid do you think I am?” It’s almost always about the dollars and cents right now.

    No matter how you cut it – changing from the traditional gasoline vehicle model will cost somebody more money, or inhibit someone from what they’re accustomed to. E85 gets subsidized so it’s cheaper at the pump, but we all know government spending is just wealth redistribution. So the population is paying a premium for E85 anyway. Do you want LPG? Someone has to pay the investment to set up the distribution channel – and right now few consumers in the USA want to pay enough per gallon of LPG to cover that. Do you want LNG at home? Then you have to cough up a few thousand bucks now to get that benefit; and again very few people want to pay the price premium.

    Eventually, well after we’re all dead and gone, gasoline will become so scarce and expensive that it will eventually force people into alternatives, but the average person doesn’t care enough to get a jump start into alternative fuel vehicle types. And this results in very few businesses willing to try and offer those alternatives at a high-volume level.

    In the USA, there will always be a small population of people who conserve and venture to alternatives, but that group is not large enough to drive a fundamental shift in what people view as affordable transportation. In the absence of good mass-transit, people have come to choose cheap cars & cheap gas over puffs of pollution and depleted resources.

  • avatar

    The only way to reasonably run a petrol powered SUV in the UK is to convert it to LPG – there are loads around. SUVs also have the advantage of space in which to put the tank. I looked briefly at getting an old Range Rover for towing (an unsatisfied desire to run a track car on a trailer) a year or so ago and pretty much every one of them had an LPG conversion – some good, some useless. The good ones had no performance penalty you would notice, unless you were Senna, the poor ones ran really badly.

    GM (remember them ?) actually sold LPG capable cars from the showroom in europe – bi-fuel it was called, but never caught on – Diesel is too popular.

    LPG was cheap – roughly 1/2 the price of normal Unleaded and less than half the price of Diesel. Until the government noticed its popularity and decided to raise the tax of course. Its still cheaper though and makes an SUV sized vehicle just about affordable.

    Most LPG cars run on both Petrol and LPG, so they can refuel normally with Petrol if LPG is not available. LPG is available in most places though including most major fuel stations. Supply can be eratic though and some places have removed their LPG pumps when the expected rush for demand didn’t turn up.

    Not much use for small cars though. Anything under 2 litres won’t see much of a return given the kit required costs about £500-£1000 depending on how good it is.

  • avatar

    If we could keep the government from taxing it to death through road taxes it would be worth it to most people, especially commuters…

    You are going to drive your car on the road, aren’t you? Then why shouldn’t you pay your fair share of road taxes like everybody else? If you would like minimal tax or tax credits to jump start the conversion “craze”, fine. But eventually, there will have to be parity with all fuels. What really pisses me off is when taxes collected for infrastructure use get siphoned off to fill holes in the general budget. NY state is famous for this; no doubt others are too

    Reasonable taxes for use of roads no one disagrees with. But you answered your own question with the fact the money gets wasted on non transportation vote buying.

    Since LPG is more economical and we would use less of it per mile, you can bet they will tax it higher to make up for the shortfall real or perceived. And yes, I do want low or non taxed LPG to jumpstart the effort. It is going to take a few incentives to convince people to convert over.

  • avatar
    George B

    Three different alternative fuel systems appear to be conflated in the article and the comments.

    LPG (liquid petroleum gas) = mixture of propane and butane which can be compressed to a liquid at normal outside temperatures. Byproduct from oil refining plus some separated from natural gas. A little less expensive than gasoline with present demand. Inexpensive fuel tanks like on many fork lifts.

    CNG (compressed natural gas) = mostly methane gas which is compressed to a very high pressure, up to 3600 psi, at normal outside temperatures. Methane is more abundant than oil and new methane is being made in the present day. Fuel tanks are large, heavy, and expensive and both range and trunk space is reduced by the fuel tank problem. However, CNG fuel is much cheaper than gasoline.

    LNG (liquified natural gas) = methane that is cooled to cryogenic temperatures where it can exist as a liquid. A way to store more methane on a ship, a city bus or a truck than is possible if it were a gas.

    Hank Hill and I both think that LPG (propane liquid) is a great fuel, but I doubt that supplies can scale up to replace gasoline. Greater demand would destroy the cost advantage. Look what happened to diesel.

    I would love to have a car that ran on CNG, but even if natural gas (methane gas) was free, it takes a lot of miles of use to cover the cost of high pressure fuel tanks. If everyone used it for cars, the price would be much higher than free. The beauty of CNG is 1) supply could scale to match huge demand and 2) natural gas comes from many “unconventional” sources independent of oil. The production methods used to extract natural gas from the Barnett Shale here in North Texas should work for other shale gas formations.
    Shale gas production goes after the source rock vs. conventional petroleum production which extracts pockets of oil and gas that migrated from the source to a place like a salt dome where it got trapped. We are also at the early stages of learning how to produce natural gas from methane hydrate, a form of ice containing methane.
    Methane hydrate is potentially a whole new fuel source separate from traditional petroleum that could scale up to replace it.

  • avatar

    First, the only thing the government is doing to my knowledge to actively hurt domestic NG is to stop exploration and production. That is precisely the SAME thing hurting domestic oil. It’s a wash, because you generally explore not knowing which you will find. Bringing in exports is tough, because the present market is dominated by longterm contracts which other countries are willing to outbid us on.

    As far as the old “true” cost stuff goes, it’s a bit of a silly argument. Yes, we could tax pollution, but I doubt the real costs would be as great as the anti-oil and coal crowd think they are. Remember that we use SO much of it that the cost per unit can’t be that huge. Furthermore, it’s not like the US would be isolationist if it were not for oil needs. You would have to somehow stop the whole world from using oil, not just the US, for it not to be an issue.

    I am against subsidizing any energy, and am perfectly willing to stop taxing productivity, and start taxing resource use and pollution. I believe that would solve more of the US problems than anything else currently in discussion.

    Lastly, I am not surprised Exxon was touting a bad strategy. Exxon is a great institution built to efficiently and profitably produce petroleum products. They also do great work with inventing uses for the by products. However, the inventors aren’t the ones that steer the ship over there, so don’t expect fortune telling and innovation from the top of ladder over there. They all have talent in reading the institution, not the outside world.

  • avatar

    Taxes for road use?

    I don’t like this argument. While I support the gasoline tax, I have noticed that everything that the government is SUPPOSED to do has a special user fee or tax. OTOH, they take all our other taxes to use for stuff that the original founders would choke at. Besides the military and courts, what exactly are they doing with all that money?

    Oh ya, buying votes and ruining lives. I forgot.

  • avatar

    funny, I think I saw this same discussion about a million times, only substitute LNG with Hydrogen.

  • avatar

    Not at all, all these solutions actually work pretty well, and are not nearly as pie in the sky as Hydrogen which is mostly just a form of battery since we would have to make the fuel from other sources – like these ones.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis


    for every good idea, there are a million haters….

    Sounds like a great idea, the technology exists, is viable and would not require scientific innovation, so the haters who say it’s like Hydrogen are making a false analogy.

    People who say it takes up too much space probably drive 95% of the time with an empty trunk and no passengers.

    To make the case as a “transitional” step to
    electric or whatever makes a HUGE amount of sense, which of course is precisely the reason it won’t be done.

    It could be done with the same type of tax credit that is currently used to incentivize hybrid purchases….

    Fantastic idea, Stein. But if I were you or Mr. Hefner, I’d start watching for Suburbans with Dark-tinted glass following you around. Exxon made many billions last year, which will buy a lot of plain-clothed security types to watch over/scare or make-disappeared any crackpots who come up with viable ideas which threaten their business model with premature (in their eyes) extinction.

    The powers that be will not allow any significant change to the status quo until the last barrel of oil is pumped up….or they’ve acquired a monopoly on the successor technology.

  • avatar

    LPG is quite popular in Australia, and its price is generally half that of petrol’s (LPG has fewer taxes applied). A Ford Falcon burns about 15L/100km of LPG versus 11L/km of petrol, so the conversion eventually pays for itself.

    The federal government even provides a generous subsidy for conversion of old vehicles or the purchase of new ones.

    It’s easy to identify LPG vehicles here: they must have a little red ‘LPG’ sticker on the license plate.

    However, there are still many new and older V6 and V8 vehicles around where the driver refuses the conversion. On a new Holden Commodore the upgrade to LPG is just AU$500 with subsidy, yet most buyers STILL refuse to take it.

    LPG has an image problem for some Australians. It’s seen as the ‘tradies’ fuel (for work vehicles) or a poor man’s fuel. Some people believe vehicles designed for LPG have less power (no longer true). Others are reluctant to carry a large gas cylinder in the car (even if it’s mounted underneath the vehicle). They believe any collision will turn into a re-run of the Hindenburg (it won’t). LPG is very widely available in Australia, even in country areas, so the old excuse that drivers could be left stranded with nowhere to refill should have disappeared a long time ago as well.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    It takes time for ideas, particularly transitional ones, to take hold.
    There are mechanics who’ll open the hood of a converted vehicle, take one look, and state they’ll not work on the car. Meaning they don’t know how to work on the car. The retrofit is very basic.
    The operation is straightforward, and you have two possible fuel sources, one of which is (for as long as it lasts) half the price of the other.

    As to hydrogen – there’s no comparison. We have to make hydrogen. Natural gas is already made, LPG is a byproduct of oil production — some additional energy is required to compress to liquid form, but nothing on the level of what’s needed to create, capture and convey hydrogen. Hydrogen atoms are extremely small, and storing them requires extremely fancy schemes, as they must be captured (in some schemes, inside metal lattice structures), in order to prevent dissipation.

    No comparison. Still, LPG or natural gas for automobiles is not the solution, it’s a bridge – between today when there are more ICE cars in the US than there are drivers, while there are fewer EVs than the corner Starbucks served lattes yesterday.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Are CNG and LPG fueled vehicles presently avoiding all road fuel taxes?

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    RedStapler :
    You can purchase a new Civic GX, but it has a huge price premium over a comparable gas job. It makes the hybrid variant look like a bargain.

    But that’s a CNG (natural gas) vehicle. Those are not uncommon in Europe, you can get a lot of car with CNG from the factory: Passats, Caddys, Golf wagons, Mercedes E-Class, B-Class, some Fords (C-Max, Transit…) and some Opels and Fiats. Everybody has some kind of forced induction now, turbos and/or superchargers.

    Last week, the package delivery verhicle that brought my new stereo was a CNG-powered Sprinter.

    LPG is, at least here in Germany, not available from the factory for most vehicles. Most LPC vehicles are conversions. Subaru, Chevrolet, Lada, Mazda and Chrysler dealers offer cheap conversion n new cars to spur sales. People who drive grey imported American cars (Mustangs and pickups, mostly driven by people in cowboy boots here) always have a LPG conversion.

    Ford has factory LPG Foci , S-Maxes, C-Maxes and Mondeos.
    The reason why CNG and LPG are increasingly popular in Europe is quite simple: Low taxes on the cleaner-burning fuels, compared to gasoline, to encourage the use of those.
    The infrastructure is there, with most larger gas stations carrying LPG and CNG.
    America has low taxes on gasoline to encourage careless use of that. So what.

    Hydrogen atoms are extremely small, and storing them requires extremely fancy schemes, as they must be captured (in some schemes, inside metal lattice structures), in order to prevent dissipation.

    This may be true, but as it’s impossible to produce significant amounts of hydrogen atoms and keep them stable, it’s not a real world problem. The hydrogen I have encountered in my professional career always appeared in the form of H2 molecules, which were quite happy in a CFD tank with a metal liner, with no measurable dissipation.

  • avatar

    Being the owner of an LPG-powered vehicle, I’d like to react to some comments/misconceptions here:

    1. LPG makes less power: In general, this is true, but not really. LPG, as a fuel, has different stoichiometric properties to petroleum. It contains less power per unit, but the octane is pretty high. Which means you can run higher compression than gasoline, more timing advance, and can run leaner. There are some wear problems when running lean on LPG, but nothing that cannot be overcome in a day and age where regular unleaded fuel provides much less lubricity than leaded fuel of just two decades before.

    But the fact remains that most installations see LPG making less power. But… I have on my vehicle an electronically metered LPG kit that cost me all of $800 and produces more power than my engine does on gasoline… stock. Granted, I also have a piggyback that ekes out a few more ponies on gasoline, but on the dyno, properly tuned on LPG or gasoline, there’s a scant 5 horsepower difference at redline, and more power on LPG at 4500 rpms and below. And the cost of that programming fits within the $800 price tag.

    If you have enough demand, and proper engine tuning, you can sell kits for just $1000 that will make exactly as much power as gasoline. And they’ll run just as well, too.

    2. LPG / CNG / LNG: LPG is NOT CNG. Honda’s Civic GX runs on CNG, which requires an ultra-heavy duty fuel tank to hold the pressurized fuel, poses an extra-explosion hazard, and costs more to tool up. An LPG tank weighs more than a regular fuel tank, because it’s pressurized, but it’s nowhere near as heavy or as cumbersome as a CNG tank.

    If a car is built for LPG and LPG only, it will only see a moderate gain in weight (about 20-25 pounds), and a mild loss of range (if you use the same tank size). Fuel economy will be slightly lower (about 10% less, given good programming), but fuel cost is 50% less.

    And it’ll be safer. The pressurized tank is more puncture resistant, crash resistant and… bullet… resistant than your ordinary gas tank. Given the same mounting points, it poses no extra risks in a crash. Of course, LPG will burn, given a fire, but gasoline does, too.

    3. LPG versus Hydrogen / Ethanol / etcetera: LPG isn’t a pie-in-the-sky idea like Hydrogen… and it’s not a very limited resource, either. A huge chunk of the world population cooks with LPG simply because it’s damn cheap and damn plentiful. It’ll get more expensive if we use it in cars, but the cost of tooling up for an LPG refilling infrastructure isn’t as big as some might think. As fuel prices went up in the past two years, LPG refilling stations sprung up left and right in areas where LPG-powered vehicles were available. Even the most expensive LPG kits cost no more than $1500… and these kits preserve your car’s factory power delivery and flexibility. It’d be an excellent bridge technology… requiring very tiny changes in existing vehicles for adaptation. And some processes that create biofuels also create bio-LPG as a byproduct… meaning it will still be around far into the future.

    LPG might not be the future… it’s still, technically, a fossil fuel… but it’s a good alternative for those willing to take the plunge.

  • avatar

    LPG is also a much higher octane fuel, which allows you to run a higher compression engine giving more HP.

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