Why Converting Your Car to Run on Cooking Gas May be a Bad Idea

Undated Photo of a Car Being Refilled with Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)
Undated Photo of a Car Being Refilled with Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)
Bizna Kenya

With the cost of running vehicles owing to the high fuel prices skyrocketing in the country, there has been a craze by motorists to convert their cars to run on cooking gas.

The new technology, which is fast gaining prominence of infusing the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), which is used in most homes for cooking, to ignite and drive the car might not be a good idea in the country.

Although it has been hailed for its cost-saving nature, at the moment it still has some downside that cannot be ignored.

Undated Photo of a Car Fitted With LPG Tank
Undated Photo of a Car Fitted With LPG Tank

In 2011, Kieni Member of Parliament, Kanini Kega, set the stage for owning a car that runs on cooking gas after he imported a Land Cruiser V8 that was meant to use petrol. 

He was intrigued to try the new technology after hearing a few success stories on the benefits of running a car on LPG.

“When I heard of an option of buying a car that runs on gas, I was like, why not? To me, the idea of owning a car with such a technology and which was only exclusive in Europe sounded interesting,” he stated.

"I actually made the decision on impulse. And you know it’s a 4.5 litre vehicle which would ideally be very expensive to run, but with the two options of petrol and gas, sometimes you do not have to worry about running out of fuel when you go to rural areas, that I mostly frequent as an MP, which in most cases lack petrol stations."

But with the cost of fuel increasing, most people have resolved to join the bandwagon of converting their cars to run on cooking gas.

The conversion involves the upgrading of the car engine and fitted with new tools. Gadgets fitted in the conversion process include an injector, a reducer, a filter, a gas tank, a ceiling unit, and a switch, all of which work together to convert the gas into an element that can generate a spark, ignite and run the car. 

So far, Nopia, a ride-sharing company by Finnish company EkoRent, has established five charging stations at Two Rivers Mall, the Hub Karen, and Thika Road Mall.

Why it is not a Good Idea

LPG is not widely available as other fuels. Cars running on cooking gas are forced to only refill at specific points. This becomes a headache when one runs out of gas and the refill station is not near. Just imagine the stress?

Converting a car to run on LPG requires approximately Ksh55,000 maybe even more in some instances. 

An expert who spoke to Kenyans.co.ke argued that that is a risk that does not guarantee a return on investment.

"As much as it has been widely published that converting your car to run on cooking gas is cost-saving, but I firmly believe that it has no return on investment. This is like failing to appreciate a car, is better if you just buy a car designed to run on LPG," he stated.

"The resale value of that car after you've converted might just go down drastically."

For those that are converted but still keep their fuel tanks face increased fuel consumption by up to 40 - 50 per cent. This is basically because LPG has a lower energy density compared to Petrol. 26 million Joules per litre vs 34.2 Joules per litre. This means that more LPG has to be burnt to achieve the same results petrol would give. This brushes off the reduced emissions advantage.

Vehicles may lose some horsepower running on cooking gas. This is because a normal petrol engine will not have a compression ratio suitable enough to exploit the 110 RON rating of LPG. To get optimum efficiency from LPG, one needs a compression ratio of about 12:1.

Converting your car to run on LPG also means a lot of engineering bits have changed. So getting a mechanic may prove difficult. Only fully trained ones can handle the car.

One danger associated with this new technology is the leaking of the gas. With petrol, leakages are not such a problem. Petrol is safe in terms of leakages but most gases are highly flammable.

If one decides to convert their car to run on LPG it means they have to review their insurance policy. Most insurance companies would require an individual to acquire a new policy that will cover the cost associated with the new engine installed. This might be quite expensive.

Inspection of the car may also bring an issue. Before a car is allowed to run in the road, it has to go through traffic inspection. At this point, it has to fulfill all the safety requirements before getting a nod to operate in Kenyan roads.

Others have also raised concerns with the standardisation of the technology, especially by regulatory authorities like the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).

One advice from an expert is that one should do proper research before converting their car to run on cooking gas.

"Due diligence is important, as much it considered as a cost-saving move, one needs to do proper research and see if it is worth it."

Some of the advantages of using cooking gas is that it is environmentally friendly, as it burns cleaner and leaner than petroleum which is also better for the engine. The technology also extends the effective driving range of a car and is also safe.

Automobile Association of the United Kingdom noted that LPG cars are about 20 - 25 per cent lower than regular petrol or diesel vehicles.

So one has to make the decision wisely.

Undated Photo of a Car Engine Fitted With LPG Technology
Undated Photo of a Car Engine Fitted With LPG Technology
Moses Kemibaro