In recent years, more and more are seeking alternatives to diesel and gasoline and, above all, the much appreciated ECO label. And we can’t blame them. The buyer has found himself in a situation in which uncertainty prevails and that does not help when it comes to planning the most important outlay, after the home, of most families. Luckily, there are more and more alternatives and that is where LPG comes in.
LPG is not only an interesting and economic formula to buy a car with an ECO label, but also to transform our old car and make it get the ECO label. Adapting an old car with LPG has a cost between €1,500 and €3,000, depending on the engine, the number of cylinders and the system chosen. So the transformation not only has the advantage of getting the ECO label, but also of being able to amortize it relatively quickly, depending on the kilometers we travel.
In this guide we will try to answer the following questions. What is LPG? And what is more important. Why is it a perfect alternative to diesel? What advantages does it have?
What is LPG?
LPG is the acronym for Liquefied Petroleum Gas., which you can also find under the initials LPG, from its name in English, or even as autogas. We are not going to go into overly technical explanations, but we will say that it is a combination of liquefied gases obtained in the refining of natural gas and oil.
The important thing is that we assume the following concepts. The price of refueling LPG is significantly lower than gasoline. Converting a gasoline engine to LPG is relatively cheap and simple. And LPG cars have special treatment, such as receiving an ECO label.
How does an LPG engine work? What does bifuel mean?
Illustration showing the components of an LPG retrofit.
The operation of an LPG engine is no different from that of any gasoline enginethat’s why the adaptation to LPG is so simple and that’s why we refer to cars that run on LPG as bifuel. Bifuel It means that these engines work interchangeably with LPG or gasoline. However, the optimal, and most economical, is to make the most of LPG and reduce gasoline consumption to the essential minimum, and in situations in which we have no other options. Precisely because the cost per kilometer running on LPG will be lower in all cases than running on gasoline.
At the time of writing this article, the average price of a liter of 95 octane gasoline was around €1.6 and diesel was close to €1.7, while LPG stood at €1.01/liter.
An LPG car, including the adaptation when buying it new, or adapted later, includes a gas tank, which is generally installed in the trunk. It also incorporates the corresponding mouth to refuel the gas and some ducts that are directed towards the engine and that switch the entry of liquefied gas or gasoline.
Where and how can I refuel LPG?
Despite the fact that LPG has not been as successful in Spain as in other countries, such as Italy or Poland, where it is widespread, there is a very wide network of service stations that supply LPG. Unlike CNG – which we will talk about later – LPG can be found in one or several service stations in all Spanish cities, and in municipalities of a certain size.
In Spain there are more than 10,000 service stations that serve 95 octane gasoline and more than 11,000 in which to refuel diesel. The stations where LPG can be refueled at the time of writing this article are 854.
LPG refueling is not much more complex than gasoline. As the tank is pressurized, LPG refueling is carried out with a special connector and an adapter that we have to connect between the mouth of the tank and the service station hose. However, the refueling procedure does not entail greater dangers than those existing in the refueling of any fuel.
What is the difference between LPG and CNG?
Illustration showing the components of a CNG conversion and its similarity to the LPG conversion.
In recent years, two technologies have been promoted, LPG and CNG. In essence, both are very similar. CNG is an acronym for compressed natural gas. Brands such as SEAT and the Volkswagen Group have opted for CNG, while others such as Dacia, Renault, Fiat and Opel have done the same for LPG. Technically, there are certain differences between CNG and LPG, starting with its storage and the state in which the fuel is found.
However, the technical section does not imply any factor that should influence us when choosing one or the other, as much as the practical use that we can make of them. But The reality is that the LPG distribution network wins by a landslide in number of service stations and refueling points to the CNG distribution network.
The choice of LPG is suitable for any driver who lives in a Spanish city. The choice of CNG already depends on using the car in cities that have CNG refueling stations in our city and assuming that outside of them it will be necessary to plan well, or use gasoline, renouncing the advantages of gas. In recent years, as if that were not enough, an added problem has arisen for CNG, whose prices have risen well above those of gasoline itself, making it no longer viable and recommendable.
Is it a good idea to convert my car to LPG?
Example of LPG tank, located in the false bottom of the trunk.
If we have a gasoline car, the adaptation to LPG is relatively simple and, above all, cheap, which leads us to amortize the investment relatively quickly. It is possible to adapt a gasoline car to LPG with a budget between €1,500 and €3,000, depending on the engine (the more cylinders and greater complexity, the greater the budget for the adaptation), the chosen system, or the size of the tank. If we stick to the costs of the adaptation, in the environment of 1,500 kilometers, it is not surprising that we find that the investment is amortized in 50,000 or 60,000 kilometers.
On a technical level, the adaptation includes few changes in the mechanics, beyond the pipes that carry the gas to the engine, and the system that switches between gasoline and gas. The most important change in an adaptation to LPG is to install an additional gas tank, which is usually located in the place of the spare wheel, under the false bottom of the trunk. So it means foregoing the spare tire and using a puncture repair kit instead.
The ECO label on LPG cars
One of the most important advantages of cars that use LPGand the reason why they have gained popularity in recent years, is that they receive the ECO label. The ECO label entails various advantages, such as access to areas restricted to traffic in cities such as Madrid, and other bonuses, for example in the parking meter rate. The ECO label equates an LPG car with a hybrid, it also allows older cars to receive the ECO label.
Despite the fact that the environmental contribution of LPG is still being discussed, the current reality, and in the future, of LPG, is to continue using the ECO label. The DGT does not plan to review the current labeling and the privileges of LPG and its ECO label will not be lost.
The ECO label is not only obtained when buying a new bifuel car, with LPG adaptation as standard, nor only when adapting a new gasoline car. Gasoline cars from Euro IV – gasoline cars that today have a B or C label – can also be adapted to receive the ECO label.
Summary of advantages of LPG
- Very low cost per kilometer, lower than gasoline and diesel
- ECO label, which implies other advantages, such as access to areas restricted to traffic by environmental label
- Relatively easy conversion
- Converting a car to LPG is inexpensive and pays for itself relatively quickly
- A wide LPG distribution network, larger than the CNG network
Disadvantages of LPG
- Losing trunk space, at least space for a spare tire
- The LPG distribution network is not as wide as that of gasoline or diesel pumps
- To take advantage of LPG on long-distance trips, we will have to anticipate and look for LPG suppliers.