litre. An average family car will get 16km to the litre, which means the average Irish driver spends €1,600 a
year on petrol.
only spend €750 a year on fuel, a saving of €850.
carbon emissions than oil, coal, peat and even electricity.
motorists don’t like the idea of having a highly flammable gas sitting in a compressed state only a few
metres behind them.
There are also problems of availability – while petrol forecourts are everywhere, sourcing LPG is an
altogether more complicated affair.
While pharmaceuticals were his bread and butter, cars were his passion.
of them across Europe. He thought it might have something to do with pricing until he realised that LPG
cost much the same here as it does elsewhere in Europe. So he decided to set about making it popular again.
the computers just switch you to the petrol back-up,” he says.
“There are none of the drawbacks that existed in the 1980s,” he insists.
process was awkward and affected the resale value of cars. A few botched conversion jobs which caused
explosions in car boots also created the understandable impression that it was not a safe technology.
“overstated”. He says that LPG tanks are actually safer than petrol tanks because in the event of a leak the
gas dissipates in the air more quickly.
many safety features in place that I really don’t think it should be of any concern to anyone.”
changing their cars every two years or didn’t care about how much it cost to fill their car, but everything has
cars while a sister operation in Clonmel has converted a further 10 cars.
conversion costs €1,000 and a litre of LPG costs 75 cent.
back in reduced fuel costs in a year, after which they will be saving themselves a grand a year.”
boot is a drawback.
think they increase the resale value.
notice it was there.”
Ireland is that the two main providers – Calor Gas and FloGas – got badly stung the first time it was
back the new fuel because in many cases diesel was actually cheaper.
stopped being attractive to consumers because of high costs,” he says.
“Things have changed completely now. From the consumer’s point of view LPG is very attractive. But there
are two pieces of the puzzle that need to be put in place: the providers need to throw their weight behind
growth in the area and the Government needs to offer them some support.”
He says this support would not even be have to be financial: a commitment from the Revenue not to
increase the excise due on LPG for a period of 10 years to allow the business to develop would be enough.
“It costs between €10,000 and €20,000 to fit out a forecourt with an LPG pump and if the companies were
to do that I think they would need assurances from the Government that the business would be allowed to
PJ Stedman switched his Jeep from petrol to dual fuel six months ago and saw his fuel bills fall
dramatically. “I did it purely for the savings,” he says.
“I wouldn’t have bothered but for the amount of money involved. The whole process is fully automatic. You
start her on petrol and run her on that for a bit until she warms up after which she switches automatically
to the LPG.”
He is convinced that more people should make the switch.
“There is a problem here: the gas suppliers are not rolling out enough pumps on the forecourts. Across
Europe it is much easier to find garages.”
A decade ago Dublin Bus flirted with LPG but ultimately rejected it despite a three-year study showing the
move would produce less exhaust and noise emissions than diesel engines.
It concluded that the conversion of existing vehicles to gas power was not a viable option “due to financial,
reliability and safety implications”.
Some countries prioritise the use of LPG and some governments offer the industry greater support than our
Almost all taxies in Hong Kong run on LPG models and six years ago driving a diesel taxi there became
According to the government there, a properly maintained LPG engine reduces pollution by anywhere
between 50 per cent and 200 per cent.
LPG taxis also make up the majority of the cab fleet in Australia.
The Belgian government applies a zero rate of excise duty on the fuel, while Italy provides incentives up to
75 per cent of the cost of converting private vehicles over to the fuel.
France, meanwhile, offers grants of up to €2,000 for conversions of cars which are less than three years old.
ALTERNATIVE TRAVEL: SHARE A CAR
Forget about LPG and electricity and petrol and diesel: the cheapest way to run a car is not to run one at all.
Relax! We are not suggesting that you do without four wheels altogether, but there is a way you can stay
(occasionally) on the road for a lot less.
Welcome to GoCar, a car-sharing scheme operating in Dublin and Cork, which continues to grow after a
successful pilot in the southern city more than three years ago.
Think of it as the four-wheel equivalent of the Dublin bike scheme. Users sign up to the service through the
website gocar.ieand get access to fleet of of Ford Fiestas, Focuses and Transit vans around the city.
They can book a car 24 hours a day, seven days a week from about €5.75 per hour with additional charges
added per kilometre travelled.
The company describes it as a “greener, more cost effective, more convenient and more socially aware way
to use cars”, and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Andrew Montague, agrees.
“Services like GoCar make the city a better place to live and give its citizens a chance to expand their range
of alternatives to the costs and hassles of private car ownership,” he says.
“Any service that reduces reliance on private car ownership and changes people’s transport habits helps
lower traffic congestion and, at the same time, encourages use of public transport, walking, cycling and can
only be a good thing for the citizens of any area.”
When you sign up you get access to three Fords, a Fiesta, a Focus and a Transit Connect van. Each car
comes with a fuel card, which you use and the company pays the bill.
You pay a joining fee of €50, a monthly administration fee, from €5 to €15 depending on the package you
sign up for, and then you pay for trips as you take them. Prices vary depending on the day and time of the
week you have the car.
If you take one on a weekday it will cost €5.75 per hour (overnight the price is €2.75 an hour) and then 45
cent for each kilometre travelled. So, a three-hour, 30km round trip to Ikea during the day will set you back
€30.75, while a three-hour jaunt to an overnight Tesco from 11am to 2am will cost €21.70.
It does sound a little pricey, but if you only use a car occasionally, spending money like this makes a lot
more sense than buying, taxing insuring, servicing and then refuelling a car.
PLENTY OF CHOICE: ALTERNATIVES TO PETROL
There are other options. The electric car is the most likely to succeed the petrol model, although how we get
past the charging problem is still the great imponderable.
While battery-powered motors look like a cleaner energy source, the distances that can be travelled are
unacceptably short and the benefit of using clean electricity is lost if you have to carry heavy batteries to
achieve a decent range.
Electric cars will not take off until there is a functioning, reliable network of charging points in place. If they
do, consumers could be paying 10 times less to run their car than owners of an average efficient internal
Solar cell technology also works but the wattage delivered per square centimetre of solar cell is low. Unless
you live in the Californian desert, you may not get enough power.
Batteries are the usual supplement used for cloudy weather or night journeys, but then the need to carry
lots of battery weight works against efficiency and carrying capacity.
FUEL FOR THOUGHT: IS DIESEL BEST?
There is a perception that diesel cars offer better value for money, thanks to their superior fuel economy
and lower car tax but, according to a Which? investigation published last week, diesel cars are often more
expensive to run than petrol cars.
The consumer organisation carried out a comparison of diesel and petrol versions of six popular car models
and found that petrol engines are often the more cost effective choice for drivers covering a typical annual
deliver cheaper fuel bills than their petrol counterparts initially, but it takes many years before they actually
save the average driver money.
recoup the upfront costs in fuel savings.
provide better value for money than previously.
manufacturers’ claims for them. “Fuel price rises have been hitting household budgets hard, so it’s
important that consumers know they are getting value for money when they buy a car,” Which? executive
director Richard Lloyd says.
tag for diesel cars, it may make more financial sense for families to go for the petrol version.”