In the family of fuels for cleaner, greener mobility, auto LPG is like a step-child.

Today’s darlings – batteries and fuel cells – will take time to blossom into youth, whereas auto LPG is a here-and-now solution for low carbon mobility.

The Indian Auto LPG Coalition, a body which counts biggies like IOC and BPCL among its members, has been pitching for promotion of LPG as automotive fuel.

Suyash Gupta, the Coalition’s Director General, has one simple question: All the new vehicles may be electric but what happens to the 30 crore vehicles on the roads today?

These vehicles will continue to emit carbon dioxide as long as they live, which is not helpful for fighting climate change. If you convert a large number of them to run on LPG, then vehicular emissions will come down drastically. While LPG is still a fossil-fuel, it is far less CO2 emitting than any other. As for other emissions, the tailpipe emissions from LPG vehicles are considerably lower than even the BS-VI compliant petrol vehicles, says Gupta.

“Auto LPG is the lowest hanging fruit,” Gupta told Business Line, pointing out that the existing vehicles can be retrofitted with LPG conversion kits, quick and cheap. A 4-wheeler conversion kit costs about ₹25,000.

Furthermore, LPG can be produced from biomass too, particularly from the wastes from the food processing industry. In the developed West, several biomass LPG plants are coming up, though no such plant has come up in India so far, Gupta said. Bio-LPG is likely to be costlier than petroleum-derived LPG, but still cheaper than diesel.

India consumes about 28 million tons of LPG, but only 1.5 per cent of it is used to run vehicles. The country produces 12 million tons; the rest is imported. Since there is a large LPG importation infrastructure, supply constraints are unlikely. An auto LPG filling point can be set up in days, so a quick roll out is possible, Gupta said.

Hurdles to cross

The Coalition has two asks to the government. One, please reduce the GST rates on LPG from 18 per cent today, to perhaps 5 per cent. Also, the GST on conversion kits is 28 per cent.

The second ask is to make it easier for manufacturers to make and sell the conversion kits. Under today’s rules, a conversion kit has to get the ‘type certification’ every three years, even if there is no change in the componentry. Nowhere else in the world this is so, says Gupta. Getting a type certificate, (from either ARAI or ICAT, the two certifying agencies) costs time and money. Since conversion kits manufacturers are typically SMEs, they cannot afford it.

Thus, with a little support from the government, LPG can become a preferred fuel for automobiles—at least until such time as electric mobility becomes economically feasible.