I now have a list of England's 80 Autogas filling stations, which reveals there is only one in Cambridgeshire and one in Lincolnshire, the counties of my work and rest. Fortunately one of these, Taylor Motors, is just two miles from the office, and although its opening times are 8.30am to 5.30pm, hours when I'm expected to be behind my desk or out on the road, it has been extremely helpful, opening early to accommodate me, supplying the valve to link pump to tank, and taking full control of the refuelling process.
Guaranteeing such levels of service nationwide is impossible, but fleets with their own refuelling infrastructure, or access to the growing number of pumps at ordinary petrol stations, will not have such worries, and will be more concerned with convincing drivers that the lpg Mondeo is fine to drive. On that score there should be no worries whatsoever. The gas burns more cleanly and quietly than unleaded petrol, creating an extremely refined driving experience. Performance when the car is running on lpg is slightly off the pace compared to unleaded, but the appreciable increase in noise under petrol power is a more than adequate incentive to keep going on gas.
From the driving seat the only indication that this is a dual-fuel vehicle is a small switch at the foot of the central console, with a series of green and red lights above it. A royal flush of green lights means the tank is full, and these gradually extinguish as the gas is consumed, until only a red flashing light remains.
When all the gas is gone, the car simply stops, although it can be switched over immediately and on the move to petrol. The only problem with the lpg Mondeo is the size of the tank, which fills the spare wheel well. The spare wheel is now anchored in the boot, occupying so much valuable load space that I would hazard a guess that it is no longer possible to carry a set of golf clubs, and certainly not with the parcel shelf in place.
My principal gripe with our car is cosmetic - there are so many stickers on the Arctic white Mondeo proclaiming its environmental friendliness that it looks about as cool as a pair of 1970s Green Flash trainers. I would also have a slight problem with the additional cost of converting the Mondeo to run on lpg, a sum which adds to a driver's benefit-in-kind tax liability. The cost of conversion is about ú1,500, and although Ford says it will not pass on the full bill, it would be tempting to spend any extra money above the list price on options such as alloy wheels, rather than a cleaner source of fuel.
If I was paying for the fuel, however, it could well prompt a different decision, because a full tank of 44 litres, good for some 300 miles, costs just ú18.92 at Taylor Motors, which works out at 43p per litre. Fuel consumption has proved extremely variable so far, with one long run to Bath and back returning figures approaching 35mpg, while in A-road and urban conditions this has fallen to 27mpg.
Overall, it's early days with the lpg Mondeo, and perhaps as gas refuelling becomes a habit, the inconvenience of organising trips around the opening hours and locations of filling stations will dissipate.