LPG car restrictions are lifted to fight fine dust

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LPG car restrictions are lifted to fight fine dust

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cars can now be owned by anyone in Korea after a number of fine-dust-related bills were passed Wednesday morning by the National Assembly.

Until now, only taxis, buses, rental cars and certain other exempt vehicles were permitted to operate on the fuel, which produces less pollution than other fuels. The new legislation, part of an eight-bill fine-dust package, lifts all restrictions.

According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, lifting the restriction on buying LPG vehicles could reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide by 7,363 tons through 2030, while the amount of fine dust will fall by as much as 71 tons.

As of last year, 2.05 million LPG vehicles were registered in Korea. With the change, the government expects the number of LPG vehicles to increase to 2.82 million by 2030.

According to the Environment Ministry, diesel cars emit 93 times the nitrogen oxide when compared with LPG vehicles.

“LPG vehicles will be a bridge to more environmentally-friendly vehicles, like electric cars and hydrogen cars, when they become more publicly available,” said Jeon Jin-man, a Korea LPG Association executive. “The strength [of LPG vehicles] is that they will contribute to the reduction of fine dust significantly while they won’t be a financial burden to the public.”

The number of LPG vehicles in Korea peaked in 2010 at 2.45 million, and the total has been declining since, while doubts have been raised about the potential for sales of the vehicles.

“LPG when compared with other fuels doesn’t have the competitive edge whether it’s in terms of performance or fuel mileage,” said an automotive industry official, who requested anonymity. “The choices that consumers could have would be limited, since many of the automobile manufacturers either don’t have an LPG vehicle lineup at all or have a limited number of options.”

According to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association, last year 105,851 new LPG vehicles were sold in the country. That’s only 6.9 percent of all new vehicles. The share has been on the decline. In 2013, 12.5 percent of all vehicles sold were fueled by LPG.

The only choices currently in the market are the Hyundai Motor’s Sonata New Rise LPi, Kia’s K5 LPi and Samsung Renault’s SM6 LPE.

Another problem is the limited number of LPG stations.

Only 77 LPG stations operate in Seoul, while the city has a total of 501 gas stations. Nationwide, Korea has 1,948 LPG stations and 11,540 gas stations.

BY OH WON-SEOK, LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]
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