Here in the U.S. the future of fuel is still very much up in the air, and most automakers have barely tipped their toes into the waters of alt-fuel automobiles. European automakers, however, offer mainstream cars in a wide variety of fuels, including propane. Opel, a wholly-owned subsidiary of GM, has announced that their flagship Insignia sedan will launch with an LPG option that, when combined with the standard gas tank, will give the car a range of over 1,000 miles.
The new Insignia LPG ecoFlex option gives the large family sedan a 140 horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that has been strengthened to run on LPG, as well as gasoline. The 42-liter LPG tank can give the Insignia hatchback or sedan models a range of about 500 miles, and the gas tank adds up to another 556 miles, for a total range of 1,056 miles. That’s about a month or so of driving for the average American driver.
But don’t look for this car stateside. The Opel Insignia is European-only, and while GM will offer the LPG engine on all the Insignia models, propane is limited to commercial/fleet sales only in the American market. This, despite the fact that propane is, at least for now, significantly cheaper in both the U.S. and Europe; on average, the price of a propane fill-up is 40% cheaper in Europe. Plus, trunk space doesn’t suffer as the propane tank is located where the spare tire went (what happened to the spare, the press release doesn’t say). Those kinds of savings can add up in the long run.
For now, propane car conversions are limited mostly to older aftermarket cars and fleet sales for larger commercial vehicles. It’s a shame because propane burns cleaner and is better for your engine on top of it, and it wouldn’t take a lot of effort for GM to bring such a motor to America. In fact, it already sells a version of the Insignia here in America, and it is called the Buick Regal. A turbocharged, propane-powered Buick would give younger people a reason to check out Buick.
It could still happen, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Source: Green Car Congress