Tag Archives: motorists

About LPG cars, with women in mind

lpg_vehicle When Autogas asked us to test drive and review a Ford Focus 1.6 Ecoboost fuelled by LPG we didn’t have to think twice because the FOXY Helpdesk guys couldn’t wait to get their technical thinking caps on here and I needed to know more about the economics of this alternative and evidently green fuel.

In a nutshell, the car starts on petrol then the LPG fuel feeds in as the engine gets warmer. This is a seamless process, explained below, allowing the much cheaper fuel to do the lion’s share of the miles.

You need two fuel tanks of course. The LPG one is fitted in the boot, instead of a spare wheel. Instead of the spare wheel you need to carry a puncture repair kit, just in case.

Apart from that, and the two fuel fillers and caps, you’d struggle to tell it was a LPG car from the exterior – although there could be no doubt about this being an Autogas vehicle from the branded Ford we drove!

As you might expect this means two fuel tanks to fill and we cover the LPG refuelling process below.

About LPG

LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) is familiar to most as the fuel used to operate camping stoves, barbecues and patio heaters. It’s also bulk delivered to homes that are not connected to the mains gas network. It takes liquid form when stored under pressure and becomes gaseous when released – you can see this process in action when you use a transparent disposable lighter.

When manufactured for use as vehicle fuel, LPG is often called Autogas – this is a mixture of butane and propane.

A petrol engine runs on vapour (comprising petrol and air mixed) so it will happily run on LPG as well. But LPG cannot be ‘enriched’ after first starting the engine by the likes of a choke mechanism which is either be automatic, or manual (as in pulling out the choke handle) on petrol fuelled cars. This process enables the engine to develop enough power when cold to move the car. As the engine warms up, the choke is gradually closed to compensate. Once fully warm the engine generates its maximum power.

As gas cannot be enriched, LPG cars were traditionally sluggish when cold, but modern systems have overcome that by allowing the car to start on petrol only and gradually metering the gas into the mixture as the car warms up. When warm, the car runs solely on LPG (unless it runs out when the car will switch to petrol automatically). All this is managed by the fuel controller and happens seamlessly as far as the driver is aware.

It is not technically feasible to make a diesel engine run on LPG.

How LPG works

lpg_tankOn the test car, the fuel is stored in a separate tank which is housed in the spare wheel aperture (see photo). There is no spare wheel; a temporary repair kit is provided instead.

There is a small LED indicator fixed to the centre console (see below) with four LEDs which indicate the amount of LPG remaining; from four (full) to one when it is time to start looking for a filling station.

indicator_fullThe car started and ran well from cold and the transition from petrol to LPG was unnoticable except for an orange LED showing when it is using petrol. Other than the little indicator there is no apparent difference in the way the car looks, feels or drives; it’s just like driving a petrol Ford, just cheaper to run…

How to fill up

First, find a petrol station that sells Autogas – there are more than 1400 LPG stations across the UK, one in four Shell stations is one and you can get a satnav app if need be.

They are likely to be positioned near a trunk route but this didn’t cause us any problems as we’d simply learn to plan ahead to refuel en route to motorways or coastal roads.

forecourtWhen you get there, LPG is displayed on the signage (see photo).

The Autogas pump we used was on a filling island along with a diesel and a petrol filler nozzle. Because the LPG is stored under pressure, the nozzle has to be positively located in the filler aperture (see photo).

On the test car the aperture was let unobtrusively into the bodywork and concealed with a neat little cap.

The nozzle uses a bayonet action to fasten itself into the aperture. When (and only if) that is properly attached, it is necessary to press and hold the button on the pump until it switches off automatically or until the display shows the delivered amount of fuel you want to pay for (see photo).

On our test car the ECU calculated the remaining fuel for the petrol tank only. Autogas tell us there are moves afoot to collaborate with manufacturers to take the additional fuel type into the equation.


The LPG business case

Clearly you need to calculate the cost of converting a car to LPG alongside the likely fuel savings.

Yes, you’d save most if you’re a high mileage driver. Just factor in the cost of conversion (between £1200 to £1600 we’re told) then your fuel bill will quickly drop by some 40% on average. That’s a dramatic effect and can quickly pay back in this scenario.

There’s also the fact that the cost of the conversion depreciates much faster than the car so a three year old converted car will deliver up the fuel savings straightaway. Most employers will surely be happy to cover the conversion cost for that end result.

But you’d also save if you can make financial sense of converting a cherished older car where depreciation has long since mattered. Just spread the investment over a ten year period perhaps and work out your everyday fuel savings.

And as we all become more canny about motoring costs surely LPG needs to be taken more seriously by more motorists?

You can read all about converting your car, the benefits of LPG and how much money you can save on fuel here.

LPG’s green credentials

Looking at LPG from an air quality point of view, it is one of the cleanest fuels available, being a by-product of natural gas extraction and crude oil refining.

To be precise, Autogas CO2 emissions are up to 15 per cent lower than petrol, its NOx emissions (one of the main contributors to smog) are up to 80 per cent lower than diesel and there are up to 98 per cent fewer harmful particulates in Autogas emissions than in other fuels (Atlantic Consulting Report 2014).

FOXY’s verdict

We think LPG makes all round compelling financial and environmental sense whether you are looking for a value for money secondhand car or plan to convert your own family car.

Here is some practical advice if you are shopping for a used car, run on LPG.

Alternatively if you decide to organise your own car conversion, you should shop around carefully as some LPG converters are better than others. So far we only have one garage on our FOXY Lady Approved female friendly network (Herts Auto Tek in Knebworth) to service and repair LPG cars but the Autogas website will help you in both respects and we look forward to your feedback afterwards.

We see no reason why an LPG conversion wouldn’t add to the eventual resale value of a vehicle, after time, for compelling economic reasons.

There is no evident problem re: car insurance either, assuming you have used an approved LPG converter.

And with no perceived difference in handling, comparing petrol versus LPG drive and performance, I have no hesitation in recommending LPG as an alternative and very foxy cheap fuel for savvy women drivers. After all, some 25 million vehicles run on it around the whole world, meaning it is the third most popular automotive fuel available, for good reason.



Nothing but the whole motoring truth

points_speedAfter a recent Freedom of Information report confirmed that some motorists were out and about on UK roads with as many as 45 points on their driving licence a lot of us were understandably annoyed that the ‘system’ could allow this to happen. And for how long has this been going on?

Especially knowing that points usually mean that drivers haven’t been paying attention to local road signs and conditions.

In fact it is that lack of concentration, which can so quickly become driver error, that causes serious road accidents, particularly when linked to inappropriate speed in so many cases.

But how can this be? Surely the DVLA can see the offenders (mainly men I hasten to add) and send someone round to reprimand them accordingly and remove their driving licence before their points start to accumulate…

And why don’t insurers simply withdraw their insurance cover?

The reason for this inactivity seems to be that neither the DVLA nor insurers have been on the case here as a result of inadequate information. So insurers simply don’t know if their Insured is telling the truth about endorsements/points or is simply being ‘economic with the truth’ at renewal time…

Moving records online

So the recent plan to move all driving records online seems to be a no-brainer as I see it and could even reduce the cost of car insurance for most people, say some ministers.

The systems challenge, which will be complete by mid-2015 we’re told, will end the need for the ‘paper counterpart’ document drivers have to keep with their licence. And insurers predict that honest motorists with minimum points could see their premiums fall by up to £15 a year.

Bring it on I say. And when the DVLA knows who the serial points’ offenders are who have been flouting the rules for years, they should name and shame ’em as well as ask the police to pop round and physically remove their driving licence for good order…

And motor insurers should check this database carefully too. Why should anyone with 45 points be insured at all knowing they ‘forgot’ to tell their insurer the truth.

Otherwise this makes the rest of us look like motoring muppets for bothering to play by the rules, tell the truth and pay the same car insurance premium as a serial under-declarer of points.


Let’s hear it for women drivers in 2014

BC731X-makeup_2718170bWomen drivers face a lot of criticism which flies in the face of motoring facts. But the media evidence is often flimsy, flawed and biased.

The UK media has a lot to do with this. Take an earlier Daily Mail feature suggesting that nearly half of women apply make-up behind the wheel, allegedly, and are ‘possibly’ causing 450,000 accidents a year.

A fairly typical example of gender statistics making women out to be motoring muppets and sadly, seemingly, written by a woman who should know better. Because the female facts are that the majority of women drivers – with gender accident records backing this up – take a serious view of motoring and are more conservative drivers than men.”

According to the Daily Mail, 46% of women admitted to putting make-up on whilst driving, whilst 43% said they knew it was wrong. But this poll was carried out for a Harley Street clinic promoting a make-up range so they presumably have a vested interest in attention grabbing headlines about women and makeup. Shouldn’t the Mail make this clear?

Dream on Steph…

I can find no evidence from my experience, and certainly none from members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club, that women are these frivolous motorists who are powdering their noses as they approach a road junction… I think it’s a really bad way to represent us, reinforcing the bad reputation that some (mainly men) seem to have of us already…

However perhaps the most worrying aspect of the story is that few females defend us in the face of such an attack. Which is what FOXY does of course but some of these slip below our radar…

I have written more about this in a Roadio blog http://roadio.com/magazine/2013/12/women-drivers/ including other challenges women face whenever the topic of gender and motoring is raised.

I’d welcome more women joining with FOXY to kick such misogynistic behaviour into touch in 2014. And when it comes from women in the first place I’d like to know why they find it impossible or even humorous to slag off their own gender.

Me? I’m with Madeleine Albright here, the first US female Secretary of State, who said “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

Nobody’s perfect but you don’t come across men rubbishing their gender when it comes to driving so why should we?


Champagne, lobster and luxury cars for ladies


Amanda Stretton, Rebecca Jackson and Amber Graafland are confirmed as this year’s Boodles Ladies’ Day judges at Salon Privé.

Salon Privé takes place from the 4th to 6th of September at West London’s Syon Park and describes itself as the UK’s most prestigious Luxury Super Car Show & Concours d’Elégance.

Amanda Stretton is a racing driver and motoring journalist who has appeared on several ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky 1 and Discovery Channel car, motorsport and travel shows. She also contributes to national and motoring titles whhilst occasionally turning her hand to modelling fashion.

Rebecca Jackson is a racing driver in the BRSCC Porsche Championship and presents ‘I Want That Car’ on ITV4. She is also a regular motoring contributor to the Sunday Times and Sun newspapers and has recently embarked on her own motor racing venture called Project Le Mans.

Amber Graafland @MirrorFashionAG is the Fashion and Beauty Director at the Daily Mirror, writing her own weekly celebrity style column there. We’re told that her professional eye for dress and fashion will be pivotal in the Boodles Ladies’ Day judging.

Dress code for the day is ‘Dress to Impress’ with the prestigious panel of judges selecting a short-list of ten best-dressed ladies. The ‘Best-Dressed Lady’ prize – an exquisite diamond pendant from the Boodles rose gold Blossom Pave range – will be presented to the lady judged to be ‘most stylish at Salon Privé’ by the panel.

Tickets can be purchased at www.salonprivelondon.com/cart-events.asp or by calling the Ticket Hotline on 0808 100 2205.

NB: Entry is fully inclusive of Pommery champagne, a lobster luncheon, English afternoon tea and full access to all areas.

Ramadan, fasting, women and motoring

th_3094-happy-ramadanThe holy month of Ramadan comprises 30 days where fasting is obligatory for all but children, expectant mothers or those with certain illnesses.

A major part is that able adult Muslims are expected to abstain from food and drink during the hours of sunrise to sunset.

IAM’s head of driving standards Peter Rodger said: “Fasting has an impact on driving – in the Gulf States accidents increase during Ramadan. That’s why the IAM is urging drivers to be a little more cautious, especially just before Iftar.”

With this in mind, the IAM is offering the following driving advice for Muslims during this unusually hot weather period in the UK.

1. Plan your daily schedule to sleep well, exercise regularly and eat your meals at a consistent time.

2. If you feel sleepy before driving, take a short nap.

3. If you feel sleepy while driving, pull over immediately to a safe and legal place and take a short nap. You can’t ‘drive through tiredness’. After the nap, get out of your car and walk about to improve your circulation.

4. Be even more courteous and patient than usual with other road users.

5. Give yourself plenty of extra time to arrive at your destination on time.

6. Always adjust your speed to the road and weather conditions.

7. Don’t rush home at sunset for Iftar (evening meal); be sure to drive there as normal, safely and carefully.

8. If you cannot cope with the tiredness, consider using public transport or asking a friend or family member for a lift. Alternatively, if your journey is not too far, perhaps go on foot.

How to remain healthy during Ramadan

ramadanTo remain healthy during Ramadan, the BBC website recommends normal quantities of the major food groups: bread and cereal, milk and dairy product, fish, meat and poultry, bean, vegetable and fruit.

Complex carbohydrates ie slow digesting foods are best eaten at Sahur (a light meal eaten before dawn)so that the food lasts longer; these include grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, and unpolished rice.

In contrast, refined carbohydrates or fast-digesting foods are best at Iftar (the meal immediately after sunset) to rapidly restore blood glucose levels – these include sugar and white flour.

When it comes to the all important liquids we need during a hot day, it makes sense to drink sufficient water and juices between Iftar and sleep to avoid dehydration and to flush the digestive system. Large quantities of tea and coffee aren’t recommended because apparently you pass more urine and can lose valuable mineral salts that your body needs during the day.

When women are pregnant or breastfeeding the NHS website suggests that fasting is not a good idea. Islamic law gives clear permission in these instances for women not to fast, but they should either make up the missed fasts later or perform fidyah (an act that compensates for missing this).

Knowing how hard it is to go without food at any time, this advice seems particularly relevant for all motorists who fast during Ramadan because dehydration is a known cause of accidents in that it affects concentration levels.