The Government Car & Despatch Agency (GCDA) encompasses both the Government Car Service for transporting ministers, and the Interdespatch Service that delivers mail between Government buildings, and was one of the earliest adopters of LPG cars.
However, it has recently bought a Peugeot 607 HDI to assess its environmental and emissions performance, following the setting of new environmental targets for the GCDA which will focus on reducing its fleet carbon dioxide emissions.
This represents a significant development of the agency's five year plan (started in 1997) to convert its car fleet to run on LPG wherever possible, a goal which it has achieved.
The new environmental target is contained in the GCDA's 2001-2002 Annual Report and Accounts. Fleet NewsNet has obtained a draft copy.
Nick Matheson, chief executive of the GCDA, said: 'The use of LPG was a very good way of kick-starting an improvement in our environmental performance, but over the last five years engine design has come on significantly and the gap between the cleanliness of LPG and very modern engines is closing rapidly.'
He added that carbon dioxide is one of the major contributors to environmental damage, so technology which enabled the GCDA to lower its fleet CO2 output would be welcome.
Diesel engines produce significantly lower emissions of CO2 than LPG engines, but suffer on other exhaust gases, most notably particulates.
However, the GCDA Annual Report highlights the 'main feature' of the Peugeot 607 HDI engine as 'the particulate trap, giving the engine one of the lowest and cleanest emission levels of any diesel in its class'.
'This is the first time we have looked at diesel, and while we are not making specific measures of particulate emissions, we do have an MoT testing bay and we are routinely checking the 607's exhaust, and so far it's coming up extremely well,' said Matheson.
However, he rejected outright any suggestion that the GCDA was thinking of immediately switching the Government fleet from gas to diesel, saying the 607 (along with a Toyota Prius petrol-electric hybrid) had been acquired to monitor their performance, economy and emissions.
The GCDA does, however, have regular formal and informal contact with central Government policy makers and its conclusions are likely to influence Government thinking.
Elsewhere, the GCDA remains committed to alternatively-powered vehicles, with the Interdespatch Service van fleet acquiring 15 LPG-powered Ford Transits and examining 1.5-tonne electric-powered vans for use in central London.