Propane Forecast: Autogas to Fuel 10-percent of European Cars by 2020

The Irmscher Opel: Does it run on autogas? Yes. Is it for sale in the US? No. (image: Fine Cars via flickr.com)

We start the week with a short rundown of the stats on automotive propane, or “autogas” in the common parlance.

In the US, there are about 270,000 on-road propane cars — and it’s a safe bet most of those are fleet vehicles, like school buses or Schwan’s food trucks. But with more than 256-million cars on America’s road, that means only one out of every 1,000 vehicles runs on LPG, for about 0.1-percent of the pie.

However, Europe has embraced autogas more tightly (and in the European fashion, probably kissed the gas on both cheeks), and an industry group expects the alternative fuel to fill even more gas tanks over the next decade. Propane is the most popular alternative fuel on the continent, according to the AEGPL, a Belgium-based affiliation of two-dozen national propane associations. In a report published last week, the AEGPL said 3-percent of all cars in Europe run on autogas, and estimated that 10-percent of vehicles could switch to LPG by 2020.

The group calls propane a “bridge” fuel, as the continent pursues more sustainable energy options including electricity, hydrogen, and biofuels. Europe already has 27,000 propane fueling stations (including this one in Brandenburg, Germany), suggesting that “the core infrastructure is established,” the AEGPL says. And looking long term, the group says “bio-LPG is expected to emerge” by 2050 — the same year the European Commission foresees the transportation sector’s energy needs being met by alternative energy. So paring that down, Europe gives itself 39 years to move away from oil.

That’s a goal that aligns with the White House’s plans. At the State of the Union address last week, Pres. Barack Obama referred to oil as “yesterday’s energy” and promised dollars for more clean energy technology. Though if autogas is on the agenda, and going to succeed with consumers, we’ll need more propane stations. There are 2,601 autogas stations in the country, according to the Department of Energy. That’s more than any other alternative fuel, but there’s not one place to fill up on LPG in Washington, DC.

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