Has passion for LPG vaporised?

LPG pump at the bowser

Plentiful and cheap, liquified petroleum gas (LPG) was once touted as a key component in reducing our dependence on petrol and diesel fuels while lowering emissions.

LPG was identified as an important component of petrol way back in 1910 but didn’t emerge as a retail option until the global oil crisis of 1973.

In 2006, the government came on board and offered rebates to owners who had LPG systems installed on their vehicles or purchased new LPG-fuelled models. The sale of dual fuel and full-LPG aftermarket systems boomed, and the NRMA’s technical expertise was often called on in the testing and development of these systems. Ford and Holden offered factory-installed systems on Falcons and Commodores until local manufacturing ceased in 2016.

But automotive LPG sales have been declining over the past decade and now account for just two per cent of total automotive fuels sold in Australia. LPG bowsers aren’t being replaced and it’s much harder to find outlets in country areas, as it doesn’t stack up economically for the sites to maintain them.

So what exactly happened to LPG?

Well, more than one factor conspired against its use in the automotive world.

The rebate offer introduced under the Howard Government was withdrawn in 2014 after years of low take-up. In 2011, an excise was introduced starting at 2.5 cents per litre (it currently sits at 1.36 cents per litre). This reduced LPG’s cost benefits at a time when the fuel efficiency of newer petrol and diesel vehicles improved.

In the 2000s, LPG installation was a relatively easy conversion process carried out by workshops that had the appropriate accreditation. Conversion costs ranged from $2000 to $4000 but, since that time, vehicle design has become more technically sophisticated. Basic LPG installation kits relied on simple electronic interface systems to make them compatible to the vehicle’s electronics and an abundance of boot space to house the tank in the rear or underneath the vehicle.

The ‘one size fits all’ kits that were available suddenly didn’t fit many vehicles. Tastes in vehicles changed, too, and sales of large family sedans, the mainstay of the industry, have been in freefall over the last decade. Hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Camry have also filled the LPG void.

What next for LPG?

The NRMA understands LPG will continue to be sold at large-volume service stations, but the concern going forward is availability in regional areas. The my nrma app shows where LPG is sold and the best advice is to plan ahead before you set off, especially if your vehicle runs purely on LPG.

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