Saving autogas in Australia
For those unfamiliar with the issue, here's a quick reminder: Holden (GM's Australian brand), Ford and Toyota have decided to cease manufacturing cars in Australia by 2017. This came as a blow to the country's LPG sector since locally-produced vehicles have long been converted to run on autogas. The know-how is there, the refueling station network is there, but soon there are going to be no cars left to convert. Or are there?
The rescue plan is to establish conversion centres for cars imported from abroad beyond 2017. LPG is abundant in Australia and while major amounts of it are exported, considerable volumes are used domestically and there's an entire branch of economy existing around it, so just shutting it all down is not an option. Luckily, the idea of setting up conversion centres has gained the support of Australia's major political forces, at least in the state of Victoria. The state's government is now to co-fund a demand study before any actual construction works commence.
In detail, the Naphtine Coalition government will provide 55 thousand dollars to co-finance a viability survey. Refueling stations may be there and people may still drive thousands of autogas-powered cars, but building a network of conversion centres needs more justification than that, so a study is to be undertaken soon. The remaining portion of funding will come from the proponents of the conversion centre scheme – the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) and Gas Energy Australia (GEA). If the plan doesn't prove sustainable, it will probably be scrapped, but hopefully it will turn out otherwise.
As for the plan itself, it includes conversion centres in Geelong and Adelaide and a centre of excellence for the LPG industry, where research and development into autogas conversions would be conducted. It would also offer training services, develop manufacturing procedures and oversee product certifications and approvals. According to VACC and GEA, the plan could create 500 jobs, so at least some of the employees of the soon-to-be-closed car factories could immediately find new employment. New cars converted under the proposed scheme could find use primarily in company and government fleets, but would also be offered to the general public. We'll keep you to date on any developments to the story.
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