An immediate solution to London’s air quality crisis

LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) vehicles can provide an ‘immediate’ solution to London’s air quality crisis, Calor Gas writes.

Many Londoners have welcomed the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s, promise to extend the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone), as we continue to learn more about the state of London’s air quality.

London’s air quality crisis requires  urgent, practical and cost effective action.  Switching vehicles to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) provides an immediate solution that would help to lower  the dangerous pollution levels across London and in cities all over the United Kingdom.

LPG Taxi

Taxis can be converted to run using LPG

It has been widely recognised that an all-electric or hydrogen transport future cannot be delivered quickly enough, due to cost and charging infrastructure constraints, to solve London’s air quality problems in the short term. The Mayor wants to facilitate a rapid move away from diesel but needs a range of solutions, which ideally do not require major subsidy or impose a capital or a running cost penalty versus diesel on the vehicle owner.

Conversion

This is particularly true for London’s cabbies. London’s diesel taxis are major sources of air pollution. Its taxi fleet could be cost-effectively and quickly converted to LPG via an £8,000 conversion – a fraction of the cost of buying a new zero emission capable model which is around £45,000 even after subsidy.

Furthermore, a taxi driver will achieve a 20% reduction in fuel costs compared with a diesel taxi, giving a payback of around three years.

Most importantly however, the emissions from LPG engines are much lower than diesel. Emission testing has shown that in real world scenarios, particulate matter (PM) is 99% less than a typical diesel engine and 80% less NOx. These are the two main culprits in inner-city air pollution.

LPG is already successfully used as a transport fuel in many other parts of the world, for example in Tokyo, 90% of their taxis run on LPG.

If this were to be rolled out to London’s iconic black cabs, it would offer immediate air quality benefits, it would reduce running costs for the cabbie as well as result in a smoother and quieter ride for passenger and driver alike. An existing LPG refuelling network is already in place inside the M25 and all over the country, allowing drivers to refuel as easily and quickly as they do now.

Benefits

For Transport for London, there are numerous benefits – especially as there are many uncertainties over the hybrid electric vehicle. Switching to LPG could help taxi drivers who are not willing to consider the expense of a hybrid electric vehicle, for example if their vehicle is not that old and they don’t have many years left to work. An LPG conversion could provide a viable alternative that will allow the number of taxis operating to be maintained and thus benefitting both the image for London and also the income for TfL from licence fees.

The Mayor of London should look to LPG as a one of a range of solutions to London’s air quality challenge, one which can be deployed quickly and at much lower cost than other alternatives. The government is already showing support for LPG via the Department of Transport’s Clean Air Fund which awarded £500,000 to Birmingham City Council to convert 80 diesel black cabs to LPG, and also through the inclusion of renewable LPG in the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. However, additional action is required to fully exploit the potential of LPG to improve air quality.

LPG fuelled taxis, along with other LPG commercial and private vehicles, could provide Sadiq Khan with an instant and rapid response to kerb London’s air quality crisis. Let’s help keep our capital’s iconic black cabs on the road.