CHALLENGER Auto LPG, a subsidiary of Challenger Transport Company, is aiming to break new ground in Jamaica providing auto liquefied petroleum gasoline for use in automobiles.
According to Challenger Transport CEO Nigel Pagon, the fuel type -- which he says is cheaper and cleaner than regular gasoline -- will be available for the first time in Jamaica in commercial quantities.
Pagon says that his company will provide the facility for converting vehicles from petrol to LPG and will offer the fuel for sale from his Lyndhurst Road location in Kingston.
Conversion of vehicles, he emphasises, will not interfere with the existing fuel delivery system, resulting in a dual fuel system in converted vehicles.
"LPG kits share nothing with the car's existing petrol delivery system," Pagon assures. The kit consists of components that allow the driver to alternate between petrol and LGP if required.
Availability and distribution of the fuel is also not a problem, according to Pagon.
"Auto LPG is a byproduct of oil refining at our refinery at Petrojam right here in Jamaica," he explained. "It is 105 octane, superior to 87 and 90 (octane) gas, and doesn't contain any lead, thus making it burn more efficiently than petrol and diesel."
Pagon also added that motorists should not worry about damage to engines, as the LPG is contamination free. "The gas (LPG) is pressured and is distributed through injectors that we install and is computer controlled to provide optimum performance," he says.
"Vehicles that operate on Auto LPG have cleaner engines which result in lower maintenance costs," he adds.
The enterprising Pagon, whose company is agent for GM Motors in Jamaica, says that he will be focusing his roll-out in the Corporate Area before moving to Portmore in St Catherine.
"The target market initially is really taxis and companies with fleets, then private motor vehicle owners," he explained.
Pagon insists that the potential savings and benefits of converting to LPG are significant in the context of rising fuel costs and the "greenhouse effects on climate and ecological sustainability".
Charges to convert, according to Pagon, range from a four-cylinder vehicle at US$1000, a six-cylinder costing US$1200 and eight-cylinder vehicles such as trucks at US$1500.
"All of these costs are recoverable within 25 weeks of using LPG," he says.
Pagon tells Auto that this novel idea of an alternative fuel (LPG) for automobiles has already been utilised in 11 million vehicles worldwide in countries such as Australia, India, Europe, Canada, and in South America.
He contends that the greatest benefit to consumers is that auto LPG is almost half the price of other types of fuel offered at service stations across Jamaica.
Gas prices at March 2010 were recorded at approximately $89 per litre for 89 octane and $93 per litre for 90 octane.
"Filling an average 45-litre tank would therefore amount to a minimum of $4000, which could last some drivers maximum two-and-a-half weeks, depending on the voyage distance and driving frequency," Pagon calculates.
Auto LPG, on the other hand, would reflect rates between $51 to $58 per litre, due to fluctuation of ex-refinery prices at Petrojam, he noted.
"Drivers can travel the same distance with the same performance level on Auto LPG, which would drastically reduce their gas bill," he argues.
His research on Auto LPG since 2007 says that he has been doing extensive research on, and has made numerous presentations to government officials at the Ministry of Energy, corporate entities and the country's Energy Committee as a Green Energy project.
In collaboration with an Italian company, Zavoli Sri, Pagon says he is able to provide the LPG conversion kits needed for vehicle upgrading.
"This kit upgrades the vehicle's management system to a dual one, allowing for functions such as being able to effortlessly switch between regular petrol and Auto LPG by the touch of a button installed on your dashboard."
Pagon insists that the latest technology in the LPG conversion kits gives performance levels that are no different from, if not better than, petrol power engines.
"This is due to a second computer being installed in the vehicle which downloads the data from the vehicle's existing computer, so as not to compromise your performance, thus allowing the vehicle to operate at the same performance level as before."
Safety concerns are also given top priority as, according to Pagon, the LPG valves are designed to prevent fire or explosion in the event of an accident, thus making it safer than the car's petrol system.
Almost any vehicle -- 1986 models and upward -- can be upgraded to operate on auto LPG but Pagon warns that in order to ensure successful convertion, "installation should be undertaken by Challenger technicians who were trained by ISO 9001-qualified specialists from Zavoli Sri of Italy".