The black sheep of the family - LPG

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Richy_Boy
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Sun Oct 12, 2008 12:05 am

Well, it's been a long time coming and after jumping from one installer to another for information I finally settled on a company called Gastech who are based in Essex due mostly to my confidence in both their ability and their understanding of that I was after. I'll dig out their number if anyone is interested, the guy I dealt with is called Keith Woods who has a Country-wide reputation for excellence.

I know most of you hate to see a modified Alpina, so if suffer from a weak heart, look away now. To say I'm impressed by the quality of the install is an understatement!

Here's some pictures:

Shot of the engine bay. only evidence of the conversion is the new injectors which are NOT drilled into the manifold, but are using existing mounting points used by the petrol fuel rail. The installer did offer to fit them under the manifold so 100% hidden, but for injector servicing this would have meant the manifold would have to come off again.

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Keihin injectors, which are by far the best units out right now. Silent running, especially compared to my old car that used BRC injectors - which clattered a bit.

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Boot space after installer. I specified a tank size which actually raised the level of the tank just above the boot floor, so I'll get some foam blocks to raise the floor a touch to keep it nice and flat. It's not really noticeable though!

The spare wheel and jack is being ditched in exchange for a foam puncture repair canister as per the D3ish models.

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The vaporizer (thing that turns the liquid into a gas) and the LPG ECU is all installed in the little area to the back, right of the engine bay. This meant all connections to the ECU and internals of the car remained within this area. Only injector loom and a connection to the water pipes run outside, but has been done exceptionally neatly. So much so, I doubt many would spot it.

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Carpet back so you can see the tank. It's a 70L job, which is about as big as you can fit unless you have a large cylindrical unit behind the back seats. I didn't want this type as the weight would be far too high in the car, so would effect handling. With this tank in the boot full of fuel I haven't noticed any major change in handling, but again, have only driven with the family present thus far. I expect with the petrol tank on quite a low level and the spare wheel and jack removed it won't be noticeable, and may, like my Nissan help with rear end traction.

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This is the only modification to the car externally. As you can see in the black reversing sensor panel a small plastic cap is visible. Flip this back and screw in an adapter to refill.

The reason for putting it there? It's the only panel that can be removed and replaced if I wanted to remove the kit. As any other part of the car, all modifications can be rolled out and replaceable plastic panels can be sourced.

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The switch/gauge unit (sorry no pictures yet) has been placed rather stealthily into the ashtray area, so you flick the cover up and can view the levels or indeed switch between fuels, even when on the go. I'll do a little tidying up here as the bracket was left steel, which I'd rather paint black.

I'll put up more details tomorrow night, or at least as soon as I can. I'm very keen to get this car on the rollers and on an open road as I have only driven it with my family present, but from motorway driving and a bit of built up driving I haven't noticed ANY power loss at all.

I ned to work out how the reading is generated, but the OBC showed 31.2mpg on the journey home (motorway, sitting around 80mph ish), which if accurate when on LPG is quite impressive, especially taking into account that LPG is half price)

If you have questions (except for Whyyyyyyyyyyy?!) then please ask.

Rich
Last edited by Richy_Boy on Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Bruce M
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Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:29 am

Does the engine have to be hot before the lpg will switch on? Ie no good for short journeys
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Richy_Boy
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Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:37 am

The car starts on petrol (as they all do) but my old car switched over in about 30-60 seconds of starting the engine from cold, weather dependent. It needs very little heat to vapourise the liquid propane.

I'll find out this morning how long it takes to switch over as the car was warm still when I picked it up yesterday, so it switched straight to LPG. Even the installer had to double check the internal gauge to see what fuel it was on as it runs so sweet.

Rich
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Peter&Janet
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Sun Oct 12, 2008 11:13 am

Hi Richie,

I think even the hardened purist may look at your conversion and be impressed, looks really good and hope you are successful.

Regards the cost, what's the bottom line for fitting all this? and are the company doing the job nation wide?

I think talking to taxi drivers operating on this system there are virtually no negatives, (possibly not enough filling stations) may be wrong, but led to believe because the gas burns so clean it causes no contamination of the sump oil and probably elongates the life expectancy of the engine.

May just tempt the B10 gas guzzler fraternity, with a bit more room in the boot. Interested to hear Charles's comments.
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Richy_Boy
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Sun Oct 12, 2008 6:15 pm

Hi Peter&Janet, my aim in this install was to create the 'as near as possible perfect install' as I learnt from mistake made with my last car. Keith (the installer) knew me and knew how anal I am about my cars, so understood 100% what result I was after.

Another days driving today and it's remarkable, I'm keen to work out how many miles I'm getting per tank now as I have covered nearly 300 miles and still have 1/4 of the tank left according to the dial!? (To refill this tank should be about £35 ish). OBC is suggesting 29.5mpg today...

As for the installer, Gastech, they used to have a Cambridge depot, but they shut that down to concentrate in the Essex area only. It's well worth a journey to get the conversion done to this high standard IMO, as if it's done wrong it can end up a costly mistake!

As for costs.. they did a bit of a favor as I have known Keith for a couple of years now due to bumping into each other on LPG forums and he offered me no end of help with pin-pointing issues with my Nissan..

The total cost (inc VAT) came in at £1995 with a full tank of fuel, but it's worth calling them for a quote - they might do a club discount as he fell in love with my car and was asking about purchase costs etc ;) :D

Based on the car returning about 22.8mpg on LPG (24mpg on SUL), I calculated about a 13 month return on investment and I plan to keep the car for at least 4-5 years now.

Rough maths:
17k year
conversion cost: £1995
Price of SUL: £1.15
Price of LPG: 57.5p (normally 1/2 price of SUL)
Petrol costs / yr: £3738
LPG costs /yr: £1967
Annual fuel saving: £1770

If the car really is returning nearer 30mpg on LPG (which is unlikely) then I'll get my outlay back in just 9 months!

As for the cleanliness of the fuel, you're right. People servicing LPG cars have often commented on how clean the oil comes out the engine at service time, which I guess is due to the lack of contaminates in petrol. I'll report back on this in about 14k miles when my next service is due!

I'm chuffed to bits.

A couple of pictures of the switch inside the cabin - excuse the quality, camera phone!

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Four lights represent a 1/4 of the tank each, and then a lower red light displays when it goes into the reserve tank. If you use up all of this when driving it'll seamlessly switch back to petrol.

The button toggles between fuels and the right hand red LED shows when on petrol and the green shows when on LPG.

Image

Richard
Last edited by Richy_Boy on Sun Oct 12, 2008 6:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Peter&Janet
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Sun Oct 12, 2008 6:48 pm

Hi Ritchie,

Thanks the reply, I'm just an interested observer, and alpina less, the roadster went because 2 cars with total family annual milage of 6000 just wasn't making sense.

However I certainly live in hope to get back into the fold, the club is excellent and I miss the monthly meet, can hardly go there with a diesel A3. Still have to confess to sitting on the shelf with this truly awful monetary crisis and will wait see how things develop.

Getting back to the subject; based on volume I actually thought there was more thermal energy in petrol so would have expected a reduced mpg and a lower power output, it certainly puts the cherry on the cake if you can record better performance and overall mpg. Still 70 ltr tank filled for £35 excellent, just hope Gordon doesn't stop it.

Peter
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M135i Mineral grey Oyster auto Sold 2015
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B3 Bi Turbo 109 Alpina Blue. Sold Jul 2009
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Richy_Boy
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Sun Oct 12, 2008 6:56 pm

Indeed, I always expected less power from LPG, but my last car recorded 295bhp on both 99RON fuel and LPG when tested. Propane is about 110RON I think, so if your car is either adapted or can automatically advance the timing then there's extra power in there.

I'm still expecting and worked on the basis of a 5% loss in LPG mpg though, so I'm assuming the OBC is being tricked to showing different injector duty cycles to keep the petrol ECU happy. A 70L tank should be setup to contain 20% air to make room for expansion in weather conditions.. but quite often you can get a touch more in! ;)

To be worth while you really need to do decent mileage in the car. I do very little really, yet prefer to pay out in advance and know my monthly outgoings will be less.

..and if G. Brown dares wack up the duty on LPG in the middle of an 'environmental crisis' then all hell will break loose! :D

Rich
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Duncan
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Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:46 pm

The installation looks very neat & professional
It'll be very interesting to follow your progress with the car :think
I have no prejudice either way for LPG and I dont think that it detracts from your Alpina's appeal.
Seems like a good excuse to enjoy driving it a lot to offset the installation cost!! :lol:
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simon13
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Mon Oct 13, 2008 12:01 am

so those new injectors flow both fuels?!
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Richy_Boy
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Mon Oct 13, 2008 8:55 am

No, the new injectors only flow LPG. The original Alpina injectors are still present and untouched, so when switched to petrol the car will run/fuel EXACTLY as Alpina intended.

It's probably best to think of the intire LPg install as a piggy back or slave system, which uses the petrol signals to control fueling. The only interaction between the two systems is when on LPG the connection to the petrol injectors is cut and simulated by the LPG ECU, so no error codes are thrown.

I hope that makes sense?!

Just to confirm the cold start switch-over point between petrol/LPG... by the time I've shut the garage door and got back in the car it's switched fuels. After a 5 minute drive to drop my son off an nursery it starts instantly on LPG.

Rich
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BMW 335d M Sport Coupe Highline :roll:
BMW 123d M Sport Coupe, no DPF, 275bhp and 520nm of torques. :twisted:

Historical Alpina B3S Coupe #19 Owner 8)
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Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:24 am

I won't ask why (although I want to :D) .... but why didn't you put the refill thing in the boot? as were it is makes the refilling process very dirty I would have thought (especially with the salt thrown on the road in UK).

Nice write up by the way, and very neat install, but .... :wink: (I suppose I'd rather have that than a 323d, at leat it is a proper Alpina)
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Richy_Boy
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Mon Oct 13, 2008 10:05 am

You can't put the refiller in the boot due to LPGA regulations, who are the governing body of all things LPG. The most likely thing that will leak is that valve... putting inside the car is an additional hazzard.

That and also when you detach the refiller nozzle (which is under liquid pressure) you get a slight 'tshhh' of vapoursing gas, which will fill my boot with propane!

The boot has been designed to allow for gas to drain out if I DO get a leak (it's a heavy gas), but I rather not have my car reeking of the stuff each time a refill! :D

Rich

ps. My car gets washed and waxed weekly and it garage kept, so a build up of mank isn't really going to be a problem.
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BMW f22 M235i with toys :twisted:
BMW e46 M3 CS SMG :twisted:
BMW 335d M Sport Coupe Highline :roll:
BMW 123d M Sport Coupe, no DPF, 275bhp and 520nm of torques. :twisted:

Historical Alpina B3S Coupe #19 Owner 8)
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olli
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Mon Oct 13, 2008 1:16 pm

Rich, that does indeed look a very professional and neat installation.

I am sure, at that cost, you will see your break even point on the monetary side in time.
I still fear the greedy rulers of the country (and not only here) will certainly whack up the tax on these alternative fuels, as soon enough people to make them feel the pinch in terms of lost revenue, have made the transition.

I also wouldn't be worried or bothered what other owners think about the conversion. It is your car and you decide, as simple as that. It looks a superbly nice car and if running costs could prove make or break in keeping this motor, than why not do whatever it takes to keep it.

Good luck and keep us posted with longer term brim to brim results. I don't like OBC results, as they most of the time seem to be pretty inaccurate.
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Mon Oct 13, 2008 1:44 pm

Just a thought, you might want to get in touch with EVO, who are planning to convert a B10 to run on the stuff ...
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Richy_Boy
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Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:53 pm

Cheers for the comments guys, I might just get in touch with EVO..

Rich
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BMW f22 M235i with toys :twisted:
BMW e46 M3 CS SMG :twisted:
BMW 335d M Sport Coupe Highline :roll:
BMW 123d M Sport Coupe, no DPF, 275bhp and 520nm of torques. :twisted:

Historical Alpina B3S Coupe #19 Owner 8)
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