Liquid gas conversion will ease pain at the pumps

Fuel prices amid harsh cutbacks have combined to open up a big new potential market for a Southampton-based specialist in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) conversions.

For high-mileage business drivers the incentive is clear – LPG at 78p a litre against 130p-plus for unleaded petrol saves £2.45 a gallon (4.56 litres), rapidly offsetting the conversion costs of £1,200 to £2,000.

That’s what many spend on an optional satnav system in their new car.

And against diesel’s 140p/litre with higher vehicle maintenance bills, the case is even more convincing, not to mention that gas is ‘greener’ and cleaner than either petrol or diesel.

Southampton-based Prins Autogas UK commercial director Will Putter, the man behind last year’s triumphant return of LPG-fuelled racers in the British Touring Car Championship, has now clinched a deal for LPG conversions on Mazda business cars.

The deal was tied up before the Middle East revolutions that have launched the debit card-melting daily escalation of pump prices that makes the ‘green’ LPG option even more viable and attractive.

The conversion, with 70-litre gas tank in the spare wheel well, is in addition to the petrol system, automatically and seamlessly switching between the fuels and dramatically extending the range.

Mr Putter says: “This is a great move forward. We can fit LPG conversions to most petrol injection cars and have found that the Mazda6 and Mazda3 are an ideal fit for our LPG equipment.”

The boost is that Mazda UK has approved Prins LPG conversions as the preferred choice for new Mazda3 and Mazda6 – models accounting for up to 18,000 fleet sales a year. Mazda PR director Graeme Fudge says the conversions, backed with a full warranty, do not infringe the manufacturer’s guarantee and there is no problem with retro-fit conversions for business or private users.

Hailing the deal not surprisingly is Paul Oxford, key accounts manager of nationwide LPG suppliers Autogas Ltd.

He said: “Running a vehicle on autogas LPG can show savings of around 30 per cent and is available locally around Southampton at Shell Swaythling and Shell Titchfield, and at over 1,400 sites around the UK.”

Mr Putter said: “I believe we are at the start of a great relationship with a well respected original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that has cars which perfectly lend themselves to LPG conversions and the fleet driver.”

Prins has also linked up with Park Gate-based fleet management specialists CVM whose MD Kevin Connor said: “CVM have recognised that the leasing companies need to change their attitude to LPG converted vehicles.

“Times have moved on and so has the quality of LPG systems from professional companies like Prins. CVM are creating pioneering LPG leasing packages for the UK motorist which will enable the user to start saving as soon as they start driving.”

One of those most impressed by the move is Tony Roberts, chief executive of the Horizon & Magna Motor Group which has Mazda dealerships in Southampton and Salisbury as well as Poole, Christchurch and Weymouth, plus Honda, Suzuki, Nissan and Citroen dealerships in the region.

After inspecting and driving a converted Mazda6 and specifying Prins as preferred choice supplier, he said: “It really is a win-win situation. For anyone doing 18,000 miles a year it is cost neutral in the first year or so and then saving £100 a month – it makes a massive, massive difference.”

He has already commissioned a converted Mazda6 to be active as a demonstrator across his five Mazda dealerships.

“There are no complications about driving the car, with it starting normally on petrol, automatically and imperceptibly switching over to LPG after half a mile or so to run with the same performance and switching back to petrol if the gas runs out.

“And the brilliant thing is the tank does not intrude on the boot or affect the load flexibility of fold-down rear seats.”

The conversions are all being carried out by Prins Autogas UK, which has two in-house conversion centres, in Southampton and the West Midlands, fitting conversions to most makes of modern petrol injection cars.

The company, which now also operates a Mazda6 LPG car, is the UK distributor of Prins Autogas Systems owned by Dutch company SHV Gas, which also owns Calor Gas in the UK.