The History of Autogas
Not just hot air
Gas has been used for thousands of years to light and heat homes. The early Chinese had gas wells up to 2,000 feet deep, from which they transported gas through bamboo pipes, the innovative Japanese also used it, but for some reason its use was abandoned over 1500 years ago.
It is easy to think that the internal combustion engine has always been run on petrol, but nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed the earliest engine - which was invented by a Swiss named Isaac DeRivas - used "illuminating gas" as fuel as early as 1806.
In 1862 the French inventor Lenoir used gas again in his motorised carriage, whilst five years later Nicholas Otto perfected the four stroke engine using gas as a fuel, and demonstrated it at the Paris exposition. In the 1920s the huge German Zeppelins, used gas to drive, as well as to hold them up. (Obviously not propane as it's heavier than air)!
The use of Autogas
Autogas has been used in the USA since the 1930s and is commonly found over much of the world. Japan has probably the largest amount of gas powered vehicles, where their lack of fossil fuels and chronic smog problems have caused government to encourage conversion of buses and delivery vehicles, and especially taxis because of its benefit to the environment. Furthermore there are abundant resources of natural gas, and many countries have attempted to reduce their dependence on outside sources for fossil fuels.
On Mainland Europe Italy has the highest number running on LPG (over 1.1 million) followed by Netherlands (360,000) with smaller but significant numbers in most other countries.
This country has one of the highest concentration of vehicles per mile of road in the world, but has a very low percentage running on gas, the incentives set up by our government a few years ago changed things somewhat. The Powershift program was set up to give grant aid to people who wanted to use this fuel. Although now defunct it has helped to kick start the industry.
Many people will remember that Autogas was promoted in the late sixties and seventies, and then virtually disappeared. There were two reasons for this:
Very little more needs to be said, this action virtually killed the industry overnight, and it continued as a marginal fuel in this country for the next two decades. This is surprising when you take into account that there is a surplus production from the North Sea alone of over 4 million tonnes per annum.
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