Is LPG the fuel for you?
In the coming weeks we will be getting a newly converted LPG powered cab to test drive at Taxi House. Drivers will be able to come by the office to have a look and ask questions about it too.
The fuel has recently been boosted by Transport for London’s recent change of tack and the offer of grants for early LPG switchers.
Diesel is on the way out as we all know and all the talk has been about electric taxis, but with only one relatively pricey model on the market, the options for drivers are limited and are likely to remain so for some time.
The supportive noises coming from City Hall and TfL about LPG means it is now an option that could be worth investigating.
Mayor Sadiq Khan plans to make a limited number of LPG conversion grants available to Euro 5 taxi drivers. LPG grants could become open to applicants this month.
LPG – which is basically cooking fuel – helps reduce particulate matter by 99% and cut NOx by 80%, according to UK specialists Autogas Limited and means cabs would meet Euro 6 vehicle standards. This would mean all taxis would meet the current strict emission rulings, despite their age.
Currently, there are a small number of LPG taxis in London including one owned by Prince Phillip – although the less said about his driving skills the better.
There are currently two places offering LPG refit options. The Richmond Road Cab Centre which teamed up with international company Gastech, a specialist engine development company, to provide London cabbies with the option to convert their polluting diesel taxis to run on LPG in return for a five-year extension to their operating licence.
Gastech introduced Euro 6 LPG emission compliant technology to the UK’s London TX2 taxi market in 2017.
TfL approved it to operate in the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, following testing and certification through the UK Millbrook emission testing facilities, but the suggestion of grants is a significant boost.
There is also Gascab and its backer Vehicle Repowering Solutions Ltd, which have been approved to repower both TX2 and TX4 models by TfL. Gascab is CVRAS accredited which means that converted taxis will be recognised as ULEZ compliant by DVLA cameras across the country, which should aid resale value.
In the meantime, Gascab advises that there are only 21 re-powering slots remaining between now and April so if you want to benefit from the full 15+5-year benefit that switching to LPG currently provides it might be an idea to book now, before the age limit consultation period.
Conversion costs between £10,000 and £12,000 and as things stand will get your cab an extra five years on the current 15 – 20 years in total – which TfL has said will be honoured even if the mayor’s ludicrous 12-year taxi life proposals get approved following the consultation.
LPG will not be for everyone. Older drivers with retirement in view may find them more appealing than younger ones.
Uncertainty may arise from the consultation. But even if it all goes ahead and taxi lifespans are reduced to 12 years, LPG lifespans will be 15 years – an extra three years. While this may make a significant difference, it is still cheaper than renting a £250 per week cab, coming in at around £90.
The growing popularity of LPG means a solid refuelling infrastructure is now in place. There are 150,000 vehicles running on autogas in the UK, with more than 65 LPG refuelling stations inside the M25 area. As such, LPG autogas could present an additional option to ZEC, which is very young, has higher upfront costs and may not meet the needs of some drivers due to driving range and a lack of infrastructure.
The mayor had flat out rejected the idea of offering support for conversions when asked about it by taxi trade supporter and London Assembly member, Caroline Pidgeon. He said that while the carbon dioxide benefits were clear, the air quality benefits were not good enough.
However, perhaps Ms Pidgeon’s insistence paid off. She highlighted the fact the LPG could act as a stepping stone towards the mayor’s 100% emission free dream.
Helpfully, Birmingham was awarded £500,000 from the Department for Transport in 2014, which was used to convert 80 diesel taxis to use LPG. The project saw big reductions in nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate materials (PMs) levels.
The mayor, however, was insistent that he did want to dilute the drive towards zero-emission capable taxis. His U-turn in the run up to Christmas suggests a rethink, which may have been prompted by necessity, especially with the electric taxi grant being slashed and uncertainty clouding the future for many drivers.
Anyway, whether LPG is the right way for you, only you can decide, but it’s worth your consideration. If you want to know more, watch this space, as I will report back on the test drive in coming editions of TAXI.
A limited number of LPG conversion grants will be made available to drivers of eligible Euro 5 taxis. If you wish to express interest in applying for an LPG conversion grant, please email TaxiDelicensing@tfl.gov.uk. This will enable TfL to contact you when the application process opens later this year. An expression of interest does not constitute an application.