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18.02.2014
Germany
Sector: LPG

Alexander Stöhr (AEGPL): conditions for growth

Over just a couple of years Germany has become one of the largest and still rapidly growing autogas markets in Europe. We speak with Alexander Stöhr of AEGPL (formerly at DVFG) about the condition of the German market.
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gazeo.com: What car do you personally drive? Is it autogas-powered?
Alexander Stöhr: Good question! In our business it should always be the first question asked. At the time – as incredible as it may sound – I do not own a car at all. Living in city centre and in walking distance from my office and many other things, I really don’t need a car. But I am looking into buying that old-timer I have always wanted, that will of course run on autogas.

Germany – your homeland – is the EU's economic superpower. A rich country, strictly speaking. And yet autogas is increasingly popular. How do Germans perceive LPG as motor fuel?
Unfortunately, autogas still is perceived as a „non-premium” motor fuel by some potential customers, the lower price somewhat attributing to this image. We and especially the German LPG Association are working hard to change this. It needs to be noted that the lower price stems from a political decision based on the environmental and strategic benefits of using the fuel. These we need to advertise more.

Alexander Stöhr, AEGPL© AEGPLAlexander Stöhr, AEGPL

What is the LPG market in Germany like today?
The German market is still effectively growing, albeit at a reduced pace in comparison to the boom years (2006-2009). A number of German automotive manufacturers offer their most popular models in autogas versions. Many importers also offer autogas options or provide assistance in finding approved retrofit centres. Most have transitioned from a system converting the cars through a contractor to their own, in-house developed models that anyone can choose by configuring the car on-line on the manufacturer's website.

How many LPG-powered cars are there?
The total number of autogas vehicles was over 494 thousand for 2012. Until December 31st over 6400 new OEM models were sold and registered in Germany. Unfortunately the figure for total growth is not available yet as conversions are only included in the registry at a later stage when the total existing fleet is reviewed. The German LPG association estimates the number to reach well over half a million autogas cars officially registered at the end of 2013.

What is the annual consumption of autogas?
520 thousand tons of LPG were sold as autogas in 2012. The exact figures for 2013 will only be available at the end of September when fiscal authorities release their report. As the number of cars is growing consistently, the figures for 2013 are estimated to be above those of 2012, thus still able to compensate the receding consumption of each individual car.

How have things changed over the past 5 years in terms of autogas?
The main change is the maturing process. While many years ago, rogue conversions and back-yard filling stations (separate filling stations not integrated into gasoline/diesel forecourts) defined the landscape, the trend is going to a more grown-up appearance of the fuel with autogas models directly from the manufacturer, autogas dispensers fully integrated in petrol stations and conversions being performed more and more by expert conversion centres. The change in the appearance of the infrastructure and the inclusion of autogas in the manufacturers’ strategic planning have slowly started changing the customers’ perception of our fuel.

How is the progress and development achieved? Is it assisted by federal policy?
This progress is owed to a large part to physics of the market, namely scaling effects, and of course the enforcement of rules favouring quality. Under conditions without any rules it might make sense from an economical point of view to sell the simplest conversion possible. As soon as you factor in the more complicated modern cars, the emissions testing of the installation and warranty covered by the installer combined with customers who will not tolerate inferior performance under autogas, you will automatically see a shift to more professional conversions performed by expert centres specialised in installing type approved and model specific kits. This enables converted cars to match the quality of an OEM offer, albeit at a slightly higher cost.

Are their any incentives, tax breaks or any other form of financial assistance/encouraging for autogas users (free parking/city centre access, cheaper insurance, etc.)?
Although some insurance companies offer a reduced rate for owners of autogas cars, incentivating the ecological aspect of the fuel, the only incentive needed in the process was the long term outlook of the autogas drivers on a reduced excise duty of autogas, placing its pump price at roughly half the price of gasoline, effectively creating and expanding a market segment between gasoline- and diesel-fuelled vehicles. For the drivers of average cars with average to medium yearly mileages, autogas is the cheapest and cleanest option. The German Federal government recognised this and has maintained its promise made in 2006. Over several different coalitions, the decision has not been challenged. The new coalition has renewed its commitment to gaseous fuels and has declared a continuation of a reduced tax beyond 2018 in its coalition contract issued last year.

On the other hand, are their any limitations in terms of autogas-powered cars use (e. g. no access to underground car parks)?. Autogas cars in Germany are not limited by any regulation. In most German federal states the regulations for underground car parks do not mention LPG at all. Some indicate a minimum ventilation requirement that is generally met when comlplying to other ventilation requirements not connected to autogas. There are still a few garage operators, who still display…
 

Are there limitations concerning autogas-powered
cars? Which type of conversions is more popular -
OEM or retrofit? Read on to find out!

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source: Alexander Stöhr (AEGPL)



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