As crude oil prices soar, Croatian motorists are seeking alternatives to gasoline.
By Kristina Cuk for Southeast European Times in Zagreb – 21/07/08
Gasoline prices in Croatia reached 1.30 euros a litre -- their highest ever -- and threaten to keep rising, but the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), or autogas, remains at 0.45 euros per liter. It comes as no surprise then that about 30,000 Croatians are driving on autogas and that the number is steadily increasing, says the Croatian Ministry for Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Construction.
In its Plan for Protection and Improvement of Air Quality, the ministry estimates that by 2010, 150,000 drivers in Croatia will switch to autogas.
They are part of a worldwide trend. Countries as diverse as Pakistan, Australia and Taiwan are reporting an upsurge in interest in LPG systems.
Currently, there are 90 stations that supply autogas in Croatia. Pushed to the wall by the soaring cost of gasoline, more drivers are converting their cars to autogas. The demand for an LPG system is so high that drivers wait weeks for installation.
The system for autogas costs approximately 1,000 euros, which pays off quickly since the price of autogas is a fraction of gasoline's. Eventually, the autogas system yields about 60% in fuel savings, compared to a conventional gasoline-burning engine.
Motorists using the cost-efficient autogas system say the investment pays off after about 20,000km of driving. A car covering 40,000km annually will save its owner, by some calculations, enough to buy a new car.
But these are not the only advantages. Cars running on autogas reduce environmental pollution, as autogas does not contain lead or sulfur. In addition, the emission of carbon monoxide is half as much as that of gasoline, with even less carbon dioxide. Essentially, autogas is a clean-burning fossil fuel.
The engine life of the autogas-powered cars is generally longer. However, that does not hold true for some models, which require many repairs if operated with autogas.
Other drivers cope by blending old and new household oil and using the mixture to fuel their cars. Yet others are giving up altogether on driving to work -- turning to public transportation or bicycles.
Still, the rising price of gasoline is not the most challenging aspect of life in Croatia. Inflation across the board is dragging down the county's living standard, especially for those with low incomes struggling to afford food and other necessities.