When Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz sent world oil prices shooting up two months ago with his comments on Iran, the members of Kibbutz Be'eri were much less worried than most Israelis.
For the past three years, the kibbutz has been switching its cars to run on liquefied petroleum gas instead of gasoline or diesel, which is saving the community over NIS 100,000 a month in fuel bills. The high cost of gas convinced the kibbutz in 2004 to study alternatives to traditional fuels to save money for the kibbutz's 100 or so vehicles, which together drive about 6 million kilometers a year.
"We concluded that what was right for the periphery of the country was gas," said Avraham Dvori, a member of Be'eri and the former head of the Eshkol Regional Council in the northwest Negev.
"We examined electric and hybrid technologies and concluded that hybrids are efficient in the city, but after you pass 50 kilometers per hour, the engine switches to gasoline power and not electricity."
Electric-car technology was also not appropriate, Dvori said, because it is limited to a 150-kilometer range, while most kibbutz members' trips are longer. "The [LPG] technology has been in use for decades in places such as Australia and South America," he added.
Another consideration is that the LPG kit is attached to the engine and can be removed when the car is sold, and the installation cost is relatively low.
In addition, the original gasoline engine can still run as before if LP Gas is unavailable, though Dvori says there are 36 LPG filling stations around the country and there is no problem if you run out of gas. Worse comes to worst, you can fill the car with gasoline until the next LPG station.
Out of the kibbutz's 100 vehicles, 64 have already been converted to LPG and another 20 will be switched within a few months.
Even though most people think LPG cars pollute less, Dvori admits this is no longer true. New, more environmentally friendly cars pollute no more than the LPG models, though older cars are a problem.
"Since 2006, air pollution standards meet the European standard, Euro 4, and that is the same as the LPG powered cars," Dvori said. But LPG causes less wear and tear on the engine and the motor oil stays cleaner because LPG causes much less soot than diesel and gasoline.
The technology is also not dangerous, he says. "In our house we have [cooking] gas 24 hours a day. The gas tank in the car is safer than the one at home. It is made of thick metal, has a safety valve that prevents leaks, and if there is a leak the flame is small until the gas evaporates - not like gasoline, which explodes," Dvori said.
There are now 15 million such LPG-powered vehicles around the world, he added, and experience has proven that there is no safety danger. He pointed to a wrecked Subaru in the kibbutz garage, noting that despite the serious accident, nothing happened to the gas system.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now