German automaker Opel hopes that the Zafira Tourer is versatile enough to attract consumers throughout the world. This jack of all trades is available with gas, diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) drive systems at European dealerships. Opel recently announced the release of a Zafira Tourer van powered by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in select European markets. Parent company General Motors has been sluggish to expand its green vehicle inventory beyond a handful of hybrids including the Chevy Volt. The LPG Zafira Tourer could create a precedent for automakers around the world used to customizing their models based on color and trim rather than drive system.
The heart of the LPG Zafira Tourer is a 1.4-liter ecoFLEX turbocharged engine designed to run on LPG. Opel notes that the engine can produce a maximum output of 103 kW with maximum torque of 148 lb-ft. The company’s Special Vehicles GmbH adapted the engine to LPG operation with an improved engine control unit (ECU) and stronger valves. An LPG tank with storage capacity of 60 liters has been installed underneath the rear seating area to conserve space.
This version of the Zafira Tourer does not restrict drivers to LPG, making the model more marketable elsewhere in the world. A button on the instrument panel allows for a quick switch between LPG and gasoline power. The drive system automatically turns from LPG to gasoline once the LPG tank hits empty. The instrument panel features a light that turns on when the LPG tank is engaged and turns off when the vehicle uses gasoline. Executives at Opel appreciate the importance of versatility in alt-fuel vehicles after developing eight LPG models. The automaker’s LPG fleet now includes the Insignia sedan, Corsa coupe and the Astra station wagon.
Opel’s performance estimates for the LPG Zafira Tourer show that this alternative fuel should not slow down drivers. The LPG tank provides enough fuel for 404 miles of high-speed operation. This figure increases to 932 miles when the LPG and gasoline tanks are combined. Opel estimates that the LPG Zafira Tourer achieves 35 miles per gallon when using gasoline. The fuel economy estimate for LPG mode is equivalent to 45 MPG with a 40% lower price tag at the pump.
Opel and GM already face considerable odds surviving in the European market before the LPG Zafira Tourer reaches dealerships. The financial crisis across the European continent has punished automakers like Renault, Fiat and Opel. Prospective buyers face tightening budgets and restricted lending that could discourage purchases of the LPG Zafira Tourer. This doom and gloom obscures some promising prospects for Opel’s efforts at promoting LPG vehicles. An abundance of natural gas supplies throughout the continent would surely offer a stark price contrast with diesel. National projects promoting alternative fuels in England, France and Germany could develop sufficient infrastructure to encourage fellow nations. Opel’s alt-fuel lineup might stagnate in the short term but should generate envy among European competitors once the storm clouds clear.