A new campaign to stamp out poor standards in the LPG conversion industry is being unveiled today after undercover safety tests in Birmingham revealed 95% of unapproved conversions were unsafe.
Birmingham Trading Standards (BTS), which carried out the investigation, found nearly half of the top 10 faults could have caused an explosion.
Unapproved converters had fitted tanks without vital safety valves, added unsuitable connections and made basic mistakes that could have caused a fire if the cars had been driven.
Independent LPG consultant Colt Services carried out tests on 20 vehicles and found 19 of them had problems. None of the conversions had been carried out by installers approved by the industry body, the LP Gas Association (LPGA). BTS is now calling on the Government to close regulation loopholes and bring in a licensing scheme, run by local authorities, to ensure conversions are carried out correctly. The LPGA has applauded the involvement of Trading Standards.
The LPGA, MG Rover, Calor Autogas, TransportAction and Power Torque are all backing the campaign.
At present, there are around 72,000 vehicles running on LPG, many of them run by fleets which have been at the forefront of the shift to 'green' transport, but only an estimated 35-40% have been converted by the 160 LPGA approved installers.
The minority of 'conversion cowboys' are creating a bad name for the majority of 1,000 reputable installers, according to Jonathan Murray, director of TransportAction, which provides advice and grants towards the cost of converting vehicles to alternative fuels.
He said: 'There are a lot of LPG converters out there who bring down the industry with bad or dodgy conversions.
'This creates problems for both the customer, who ends up footing the bill, and the LPG community, which finds it hard to promote conversions with such a dark cloud hanging over the industry.'
Paul Oxford, sales development manager at Calor Autogas, said it was vital fleets supported LPG, but did not make drivers unsafe by cutting corners.
He said: 'We have to put this in perspective. LPG has an enviable safety record. If fleets are going down the LPG route, they will have no problems if they go to an LPGA approved installer.
'I think formal legal backing from the Government, like the CORGI registration for gas fitters, would be beneficial for the industry.'
|10 most common LPG conversion faults|
|Non-approved LPG tank without safety valve||Increase in pressure, possible explosion|
|No isolation valve in engine compartment||No means of switching off fuel supply following an accident|
|Non-approved LPG tank without isolation valve||Gas supply from tank cannot be cut off following an accident|
|Inadequate venting of LPG tank and valves||Gas could build up inside vehicle during leak|
|Low pressure hose not suitable for LPG||Corrosion from LPG, resulting in rupture|
|Loose wiring and exposed connections||Engine failure or spark causes explosion|
|Insecure vaporiser||Strain on fuel pipes leading to leak and potential fire|
|Unsupported fuel pipe||Vibration causes detachment and leakage|
|LPG cylinder fitted insecurely||Could become loose during an accident|
|Incorrect filler poorly mounted||Could be exposed to accidental damage|
|Source: Birmingham Trading Standards|