Autogas 101: A Beginner’s Guide

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If you’re not familiar with autogas, now is a great time to discover what the alternative fuel has to offer. As society continues to utilize more energy-efficient fuel sources and search for new methods of reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses, autogas – more specifically propane autogas – has emerged as a great 'green' alternative.

What is autogas?

Autogas is an alternative fuel primarily used to power automobiles. Though it’s still relatively unknown to some, it’s currently the third-most popular fuel source in the world behind gasoline and diesel. Like every day propane, autogas is clean-burning, more economical and easier on engines than gasoline or diesel fuel while offering similar performance and versatility.

Despite its name, propane autogas is not quite the same as what’s inside the propane tank under your grill at home; it’s only used to power automobiles and internal combustion engines. In fact, when propane is used to fuel automobiles, only then is it termed propane autogas, or just autogas for short.

Autogas is also sometimes referred to as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), though there are several gasses that fall under the LPG umbrella, including propane, butane and isobutane, as well as mixtures of the three. However, propane is the most commonly used LPG autogas because it performs better than other LPGs in cold temperatures.

Where does propane autogas come from?

Just as gasoline is refined from crude oil, propane autogas is a by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, produced mainly in the U.S. When energy companies draw natural gas from the Earth, propane occurs naturally and is harvested. It’s then separated from the natural gas, pressurized and liquefied, then stored inside a tank, ready to fuel an internal combustion engine.

Propane autogas vs. diesel:

Propane and diesel fuel are often compared because both are more economical and fuel efficient than gasoline. However, propane autogas is ultimately the better choice for most drivers in many cases. Here’s why:

  • Lower fuel costs – Filling up with autogas costs less per gallon than diesel. Prices vary based on different factors, but autogas costs anywhere from 30 to 60 percent less than both diesel and gasoline on average.
  • Less environmental impact – Autogas produces far less emissions than diesel, including less carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, and has less overall ozone-forming potential.
  • Less wear and tear – Due to propane’s high-octane rating and low carbon and oil contaminant characteristics, the lifespan of an autogas engine is often longer than that of diesel, meaning less money spent on maintenance and wear and tear.
  • More availability – Despite autogas’ benefits, it’s still in relatively small demand in the United States compared to diesel and gasoline. This means fuel costs stay low while the consumer supply remains high.

What is LPG conversion?

If you’re wondering can cars run on autogas, the answer is yes! With LPG conversion, many modern vehicles can be retrofitted to run on propane autogas. It works by adding a second, propane-only fuel system to your vehicle alongside the original gasoline system, complete with an additional fuel tank. All the necessary parts are often sold together in an LPG conversion kit. Though conversion kits cost several thousand dollars on average at least, the savings you will recoup in fuel and maintenance costs over time could very well make it worth it.

Where can I find autogas filling stations?

Although demand for LPG is not considerably high in the U.S., LPG refill stations aren’t difficult to find. In fact, it may surprise you just how many LPG stations are already available in your city. U-Haul alone has more than 1,100 propane refill stations across the nation that serve as propane vehicle fueling stations!

To find an LPG or propane refill station near you, click here and enter your zip code.