José Luis Blanco - lots to do, lots to gain
gazeo.com: How many LPG filling stations are there in Spain and do tourists traveling to the Iberian Peninsula have no problems refueling their autogas-powered cars?
José Luis Blanco: The number of autogas stations in Spain increases swiftly, so each day we know about new stations open to the public. Currently, there are over 470 autogas supply points throughout the peninsula, of which over 200 are gas stations. Although it is a number much lower than in other European countries, it is growing. In fact, according to forecasts, by 2015 Spain will have more than 1000 autogas supply points. Also, due to good distribution of these refueling points, neither tourists nor residents in Spain have troubles to refuel, especially if they plan their routes beforehand. On AOGLP’s website there is a map of gas stations to let users know at all times where they can refuel.
Which type of autogas stations dominates: networks operating large forcourts or small, privately-owned retail points?
Currently, autogas stations open to the public begin to predominate in Spain. Be it either private or networked gas stations, the possibility to refuel autogas is always at hand. In terms of location, in those most populated and large cities, there is a greater number of refueling points, while smaller towns are the challenge to the industry to install new stations.
What is the price of LPG in comparison to petrol and diesel?
Currently, the price of LPG compared to traditional fuels is approximately 50% lower. Therefore, the cost savings achieved by the use of LPG compared to other fuels can reach 40% net.
How many LPG-fueled cars drive on the roads of Spain and what is the total number of all vehicles in the country?
We believe that the number of autogas cars circulating in Spain exceeds now 13000 vehicles, having increased dramatically over the last year. However, we don’t have precise details of all vehicles in Spain. According to the DGT, in 2011 the national park of vehicles (cars, buses, trucks and vans) was over 27 million, which indicates that LPG vehicles currently do not represent one percent of the total Spanish park. Despite this figure, we are optimistic and believe that in a few years GLP will be the fuel of more than 2% of the vehicles in Spain.
What is the structure of LPG consumption in Spain like (including bottles, bulk cylinders, autogas)?
If we value the total LPG consumption in our country, we see how butane and propane consumption predominates for both domestic and industrial use. According to ‘Cores’, in 2012 Spanish market consumed 1,601,777 tons of LPG, of which 26,104 tons were autogas.
Do you see an increase of LPG consumption connected to summer tourism?
Indeed we do, although the summer is not over and we still have no figures to perform a comparative exercise, but based on what we saw last year, when autogas consumption increased more than a 22%, we are optimistic about the figures to be presented after the summer. Not only because of the increasing number of Spanish drivers already using autogas, but by the flow of tourists from neighboring countries such as Portugal and France, where use of LPG is more common.
Rules applicable to LPG were famously stringent in Spain. What has changed in that respect?
Due to the increased LPG use, restrictions are dwindling. In Spain, the sector operates under European regulations, ensuring smooth running of various segments that make up this industry. Since autogas market was deregulated, our "problem" is no more the restriction on mobility or LPG vehicle access to certain areas of the cities, as has occurred in other countries. Instead, our weakness comes through the ignorance of this alternative by the general public, which has caused little receptivity and uncertainty.
Are there any regulations applicable nowadays which make the lives of LPG-powered vehicles’ drivers’ lives harder, such as no entry into underground car parks, no self-service LPG refueling, more frequent MOT tests, higher taxes, etc.?
No, in Spain it’s actually been the opposite of what we hear of in other markets. Earlier, strict regulations made the industry totally marginalized, but now the liberalization of the sector and the awareness of the importance of energy diversification and environmental protection among the government and various sectors of the Spanish society has begun to usher in alternative fuels such as LPG. In that sense, rather than creating barriers, support is given so that this sector can grow and begin to take root in our country. This is demonstrated not only by the actions of operators, manufacturers, and workshops, but also by authorities, who have decided to subsidize aids for the purchase of cars converted to run on autogas. Even some of them have transformed their fleets.
As I said before, these kinds of rules are becoming smaller, since the administration is realizing that an LPG car is as safe as any other vehicle.
Is there a tax break system or projects that support autogas industry in Spain?
Currently the Spanish government is supporting the purchase of cars with LPG through PIVE Plan. In addition, some regions offer subsidies for the purchase of cleaner and more efficient vehicles, including autogas. Spanish people also have the aid from operators for processing and agreements with institutions and fleets. However, this is precisely one of the major challenges of the sector. The administration’s support is essential for the development of autogas industry, and when we say support we don’t mean just allowances and subsidies to users who opt for LPG in the purchase and transformations of vehicles, but in recognition of LPG as an alternative to traditional fuels, clean and highly efficient, which can act from today as a great ally in the fight against climate change.
Is your market dominated by used cars with aftermarket LPG conversions or new vehicles with factory-fitted LPG systems?
Right now, the development of autogas in Spain is “fueled” by aftermarket convesrions, but hopefully in the future there will be a combination of factory-converted autogas vehicles and aftermarket-converted ones, as has happened in most of the countries with strong development of autogas.
How do Spaniards perceive the prospect of converting their cars to run on LPG?
Some users are skeptical about converting their vehicles because they believe that may affect its operation. However, this perception is gradually changing. Thanks to the positive experiences of many users, transmitted through social networks, and special interest shown by many media, the Spanish are losing their fear of this technology. Our role in this regard is particularly directed to sending out a message that retrofit cars are perfectly safe and, also, to people who choose to have their cars converted, to do it an approved workshop, because then the autogas system is covered by warranty and the vehicle’s performance is not affected. Otherwise retrofit segment grows almost in parallel with the factory conversion segment.
Is CNG a competitive fuel to LPG? How developed CNG refueling infrastructure is?
CNG is an indisputable alternative to traditional fuels, but in Spain it is disadvantaged by its almost total lack of refueling infrastructure and the fact it’s almost solely used in heavy transport such as buses and garbage collection trucks. Private stations need costly investments.
What are the prospects for the LPG sector?
Growth prospects include reaching 1000 service stations and 100000 vehicles in 2015. While the entire industry is working hard to achieve these figures, or even surpass them, strong support from the authorities is also inevitable.
What do you wish Spaniards who use LPG?
The most common requests refer to maintaining of the difference in the cost of LPG compared to traditional fuels, in addition to the development of the network of stations to refuel. In addition, many people ask the government to maintain the aids to the sustainable car use. So I hope it all happens simultaneously, so that the market can grow rapidly.
Thank you for your time.
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