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Fuel costs put spotlight on LPG

LPG converter companies are looking forward to doubling business this year as the dramatic increase in the petrol makes it even more competitive.

The current price of LPG is 58p per litre, compared with 118p a litre for petrol.

Last year, 13,000 LPG conversions were carried out in the UK by converters approved by the Liquified Petroleum Gas Association (LPGA).

This year, that figure is expected to double, based on the level of enquiries received so far, according to Mike Chapman, head of its autogas operation.

In 1998, the UK’s LPG vehicle parc stood at only 3,500 but Chapman claims the figure is now around 150,000.

The number of LPGA approved converters in the UK is around 200.

According to Chapman, the cost of becoming an approved converter is relatively modest.

He said: “For a dealer with an existing workshop, the first stage of seeking approval is for a technician to sit an hour-long written exam (cost: £20 ex VAT), followed by a workshop inspection by the LPGA to make sure it has the necessary tools and equipment (£570, ex VAT).

“This initial start-up investment also covers the first year’s membership.

“Subsequently, there is an annual fee of £150 and a two- yearly workshop inspection,” he added The average cost to the customer of an aftermarket conversion is £1,600 and involves around two days’ work, he says.

“But the clear profit for the converter could be up to £500,” said Chapman.

Chapman said the number of LPG filling stations in the UK has remained stable at 1,300 sites.

He added: “We have one of the highest ratios of LPG stations to vehicles in Europe. We see a very positive future ahead.”

However, data from the SMMT for LPG and CNG (compressed natural gas) new car registrations shows that only 39 were registered in 2006 and three in 2007.

“They are just too expensive compared to conventional cars,” said SMMT spokesman John Proctor.

He said the removal of the Government’s Powershift subsidy of around £1,500 for a new LPG vehicle in 2004, following EU objections, had left the new market for new LPG cars ‘fairly non-existent’.

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