Letter Re: Some Thought on Dual-Fuel LPG Vehicles

Dear Jim,
I don’t know if this applies to folks in the US, but it may be something for UK readers to consider. My main vehicle is equipped with both petrol and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) tanks, and I will also be installing an LPG system on my secondary vehicle. There are two main advantages to this:

1. LPG is less than half the price of petrol, and although you get a third less mileage than you do using petrol, it still works out cheaper – in fact, in the UK, you can get the installation costs back in around 18 months. Also, burning LPG as fuel is cleaner and greener. I buy mine from the farm supplies company around the corner, which is even cheaper still.

2. With both petrol and LPG tanks full, I can drive around 550 miles (on English roads, which have far more bends and stop-starts than US roads) without refuelling, even though my main petrol tank is only 15 gallons. That’s a big advantage. Two things to note: always deplete the LPG first, as the vehicle needs petrol to start; and the amount of LPG you can get in the tank depends on the temperature; the warmer it is, the more the gas expands in the tank and the less liquid you can get into it, which will affect your mileage.

There is a minor disadvantage in that places that carry LPG are not as common as regular fuel stations, and sometimes they’re tucked away on industrial estates – sometimes they are a tank in a farmyard! We keep a log of where known ones are, and we have a [GPS] sat-nav with LPG stations listed on it for traveling further afield. Most of the places we use are unmanned, and require a special key to operate, so if power is still working, the pump will still give you LPG. Perhaps that disadvantage could be an advantage in a SHTF situation.

I’m looking to devise a method of filling the vehicle tank/running directly with bottled LPG as a further fall-back. Blessings, – Luddite Jean, in England

JWR Replies: There are road tax issues, but propane conversion kits are readily available in the US for older “pre-smog” aspirated gasoline-engine cars and trucks, as well as more expensive conversions for newer fuel-injected engine vehicles. Used conversion kits for pickup trucks, usually complete with fuel tanks often come up for sale on eBay. And a few complete and running propane vehicles are also sold on eBay Motors. Used utility company trucks that are propane-powered or even dual-fuel occasionally get sold at auction yards. Watch the auction listings closely. Once in a blue moon, you will find a dual-fuel vehicle that is also a four wheel drive. If you find one like that, that is in good shape at a reasonable price, then jump on it!

I highly recommend getting at least one propane-fuel vehicle, especially for any readers that already have a large propane tank at home.