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Current Situation

The Government’s latest Air Quality Plan for tackling nitrogen dioxide (NO2), published in July 2017, acknowledged poor air quality as the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. The Royal College of Physicians estimated that the annual cost of health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution in the UK exceeds £20 billion. This includes costs to society and business, health services and individuals who are affected.

Air pollution can have obvious and immediate short term effects but it will also have health impacts throughout life. Groups such as children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions can be particularly at risk but so are those who live in urban areas, and near busy roads.

The Plan within this report include a wide range of measures which includes using innovative retrofitting technologies

This comes after the Governments response to the Environmental Committee report from March 2015 which supported local authorities in identifying the best solutions and schemes such as the Air Quality Grant Scheme and the Clean Vehicle Technology Fund.

The introduction of increasingly strict vehicle emissions regulations has not delivered the expected reduction in emissions of NOx and PM’s from light passenger and commercial diesel vehicles in real world use.

As a result, road transport is still by far the largest contributor to NOx and PM pollution in the urban areas where the UK is exceeding European limit values. Addressing road transport emissions therefore presents the most significant opportunity to tackle this specific exceedance problem. However road transport is a key part of almost everything that we do as individuals or businesses with social and economic impacts which are much wider than air quality. This means setting new policies and incentives to promote new technology and innovation, speeding up the move to cleaner vehicles and supporting the Governments strategy to deliver cleaner air for UK towns and cities.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is a readily available low emission fuel that can be deployed across multiple high polluting transport sectors, particularly those that are challenging and expensive to electrify such as vans and taxis.

For many taxi and van drivers, zero emission capable vehicles are prohibitively high in price and often fail to meet their practical driving needs. But, there is an immediate solution whilst these technologies develop – LPG.

Air Quality Plan

As the Department for Transport is aware, and as recognised in the recent Air Quality Plan, LPG is a well-established, low emission alternative to diesel and petrol. LPG vehicles emit far fewer NOx, particulate and CO2 emissions1. Equally, drivers of LPG vehicles are able to access the fuel from an established infrastructure of 1,400 refuelling points and save up to 40% on their fuel bills.
 
Petrol vans, which are readily available in the UK at c.£12,000, can be converted to run on LPG for less than £2,000. By contrast, zero emission capable equivalents cost in the region of £20,000, and many drivers and policymakers remain concerned about the financing arrangements for electric vehicles and their resale value. LPG therefore provides an obvious solution for van drivers who are looking to operate cleaner vehicles but who are concerned about the practical implications and the prohibitively high upfront costs of electric and hydrogen equivalents.

1. Range-extender technology

The technology has now been developed to allow LPG to act as a range extender for hybrid electric vehicles.

Bio-LPG

Calor has announced its intention to bring bio-LPG2 to the UK market, securing the UK LPG market for the future and making available a bio-fuel that offers even greater carbon savings (up to 95% compared to fossil LPG).
 
It is already well established that LPG will deliver lower carbon emissions when compared to petrol – between 10%-20% in a recent study involving testing under real driving conditions. This means that any electric range extended vehicle using LPG rather than petrol will inevitably see a significant reduction in carbon emissions of between 10%- 20%. This reduction will be even greater if bioLPG is used.
 
Ultimately, LPG technology could help accelerate a move away from diesel, but to a much lower carbon, lower emission alternative than petrol.

Clear Air Zones (CAZ)

To implement a CAZ local authorities must set out measures to bring NOx in line with legal limits “in the shortest time possible”. In some cases this is likely to be a charging CAZ. In other cases, other measures (e.g. LPG retrofit schemes) could be implemented.

Who has to implement a CAZ?  - 29 local authorities with persistent NOx exceedances.

How will they be funded? - The Government has made available to local authorities £255m to conduct feasibility studies and begin the implementation of CAZs.

London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ)

London has had a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in place since 2008. Many local authorities outside London are taking steps to encourage cleaner ways of travel and support the uptake of cleaner vehicles through the introduction of low emission zones; retrofit programmes; increasing the proportion of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) in their fleets; providing infrastructure such as electric vehicle charging points; introducing park and ride schemes; and promoting cycling and walking. Other cities outside London which have put in place LEZs include Oxford, Norwich, and Brighton and Hove.

Many alternative fuel technologies, despite progressing at a fast rate still have drawbacks in applying their use to some vehicle sectors. The cost of adopting and implementing these solutions is also currently extremely high. Nevertheless with the goals in the Governments’ Air Quality Plan for reducing vehicles solely powered by petrol and diesel set for 2040 it is likely a lot of these issues will be resolved, but to start making a significant impact on air quality we need to start making changes now. Employing LPG in relevant vehicles is one way to ensure the transition to alternative cleaner vehicle technology does not have to be delayed and can start here and now.

Repowering technology

After repowering, over 1,200 vehicles are using innovative, pollution-reducing technologies

Repowering refers to all or part of an engine being modified with pollution-reducing and/or fuel saving technologies. There is a small but successful retrofit industry in the UK which mainly focuses on larger vehicles. Several thousand vehicles have already been retrofitted in recent years under Department for Transport (DfT) programmes.

Since 2013, government has awarded over £27 million to retrofit almost 3,000 of the oldest vehicles (mainly buses) under three schemes. It is the third scheme, The Clean Vehicle Technology Fund (CVTF) 76 which has provided £8 million (in 2014/15) to local and transport authorities to retrofit over 1,200 vehicles using innovative pollution reducing technologies in a range of vehicles (buses, taxis, vans, fire engines and ambulances).

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As part of a £500,000 project with Birmingham City Council, Autogas repowered 65 of the city’s black cabs to run on… https://t.co/v7Pv0wz94Y