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I lived in Australia for a few years and I knew that they sold gas (LPG), diesel and petrol in stations.

I am not a car expert, but it seems that when you buy your car in Australia, you need to ask if the car runs on gas, diesel and petrol.

When it comes to English, in many countries, people say "fill up with petrol" but American people might say "fill up with gas (petrol)".

In the USA, do you say "my car runs on LPG gas" or just "my car runs on gas" if your car runs on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or autogas that is liquid compressed from gas air used for cooking?

Some people in the USA say "my car runs on propane" but "propane" doesn't sound like an easy word.

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  • 18
    Propane is the most common term in the US for LPG. afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/propane.html
    – ColleenV
    Jul 21 at 12:44
  • 12
    Propane is a common word. It is a common fuel for gas barbecues. Recreational vehicles often have a propane stove, and many homes (especially in suburbs and rural areas) have a large propane tank that fuels the stove, water heater, and furnace. Jul 21 at 12:51
  • 32
    As a native American English speaker, I've never even heard the term LPG. A car running on propane would be very rare in the US and not accommodated at most service stations. Propane is mostly used as a heating fuel, and sometimes, as ColleenV notes, to power smaller specialized commercial vehicles like forklifts.
    – Seth R
    Jul 21 at 20:48
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    Although propane in private vehicles is rare, it's quite common in commercial fleets, especially for shuttles and buses, because fuel costs are similar to diesel, but maintenance costs are lower.
    – barbecue
    Jul 21 at 22:47
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    I've never heard the term "autogas" before this thread either. I suspect most Americans would be confused by this word and assume you are referring to "gas" for an "auto", ie gasoline or petrol.
    – Seth R
    Jul 22 at 14:09
24

As the 'G' in 'LPG' stands for 'gas', to say "LPG gas" would be a tautology in British or Australian English. In American English, it would just be confusing.

The American use of 'gas' for what British and Australian English speakers call 'petrol' is an abbreviation of gasoline. Other territories call LPG 'gas' because it actually is a mixture of hydrocarbon gases such as propane and butane, in liquid form. So to call 'LPG' a type of gasoline would be incorrect.

You should just refer to it as 'LPG' (or whatever other term seems to be used in the area you are living in/visiting - comments have suggested that some Americans refer to it as propane or autogas... it seems like nobody can agree on what it's definitely called) so as not to confuse it with gasoline. Similarly, you wouldn't say "diesel gas" - you'd just say "diesel".

I have found that some people use "petrol" or "gas" as an umbrella term for all kinds of fuel - in the UK and the USA places that vend fuel are called petrol stations and gas stations respectively. But most people will use the specific term for the kind of fuel their vehicle uses, to avoid confusion and for correctness. If you want an umbrella term for all these things then use 'fuel'.

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    I'd add, as someone living in the US, I've never met someone who owned a personal vehicle running on propane (LPG), nor seen a public fueling station for it. I'm sure they both exist and happen, but I've lived in 3 states, and been to probably 20+ without it being acknowledged in any manner. There's even very few diesel engines outside of semi's, work trucks, and the occasional VW owner. I believe we default to 'gas' for the British/Australian 'petrol' because it's short, easy, and utterly ubiquitous. I've never heard a refueling location called anything other than a 'gas station'
    – TCooper
    Jul 21 at 20:41
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    The use of ‘petrol’ in ‘petrol station’ doesn't mean that ‘petrol’ is being used to cover other types of fuel; ‘petrol station’ has simply become a more general term (a metonym) — in the same way that a fish & chip shop may sell many other foods besides fish and chips.
    – gidds
    Jul 21 at 21:16
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    I'm going to slightly disagree with the first paragraph. In American English, "LPG" isn't a widely known initialism, so saying "LPG gas" would be fine. Also, while I agree it's redundant, we use these all the time and I wouldn't say it causes confusion...e.g. "ATM Machine", "Pin Number", "Please RSVP", "DC Comics", "UPC Code", etc
    – BruceWayne
    Jul 21 at 21:18
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    @nick012000, Natural gas is very difficult to liquify because it is mostly methane. Propane is the major component of LPG. Natural gas is generally in reticulation systems because it is better and safer than coal gas, which is substantally carbon monoxide.
    – Peter
    Jul 22 at 6:23
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    @BruceWayne The potential confusion in AmE is that if the person you are talking to doesn't know what LPG is, they might think "LPG gas" is a type of gasoline, which it isn't. It's not the redundancy that's the issue, it's the two different meanings of "gas". Jul 22 at 10:17
27

LPG would typically be called propane or autogas in the United States. It may also be known as LPG, just as in other countries.

There's a lot of folks here telling you that propane/LPG isn't used as a vehicle fuel in the United States.

They are wrong.

It was used a lot on farms to power tractors and pickup trucks. I remember farm kids telling me how they'd cool their drinks while working in the fields in the summer by venting a blast of propane from the (tractor or pickup) tank onto the bottle. That had to be done carefully - too little and it wouldn't cool, too much and the bottle would cool so fast it'd burst.

There are still lots of people using propane in the USA. This page from the U.S. Department of Energy details current usage - mostly in fleets, but some personal vehicles. That page also mentions that it is also called "autogas."

This page shows fuelling station availability across the USA and Canada. There's 1241 publicly accessible fuelling stations for LPG in the USA. That's far more than for liquefied natural gas (55 stations) though far less than bio-ethanol (3962.)

It might not be common, or even commonly known, but propane/LPG is known and used in the USA.


Farms usually had a large propane tank that would be filled by a local delivery company.

Tractors and pickups could be refueled from the large tank, and not need to go to town for fueling. They didn't need a fuelling station - they just fuelled up "at home."

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    This isn't really an answer to the OP's question - it's more like an attack on other people's comments. As this is an English language site and not a fuel availability site, I don't think this answer is on-topic.
    – Astralbee
    Jul 22 at 8:32
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    Read the first sentence. It gives the commonly used names for LPG in the US. There are also links to the US Department of Energy showing the terms in use.
    – JRE
    Jul 22 at 8:33
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    As well, the other "answer" doesn't answer the question at all. It attempts to rule out some terms (LPG gas being redundant, for example,) while providing some "may be" terms (gas, petrol) that are umbrella terms, but not specific terms.
    – JRE
    Jul 22 at 8:36
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    "Propane", I've definitely heard all the time. "Autogas", I haven't. (Spent significant chunks of my life in California, Texas, and Illinois). Jul 22 at 17:28
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    ~1200 stations is very little. In my city of over 1 million people there's only one. There are more than 150,000 fueling stations in the USA alone. So less than 1% of the stations are propane fueling stations. You say "lots of people" use propane vehicles, your source says only 200,000 vehicles out of 276 million are fueled by propane, less than 1 in 1000 and most of them in commercial fleets... Jul 22 at 21:22
23

The most common term in spoken American English is "propane". Sometimes you will see "LP gas" or "LPG", but usually in written materials like manuals and labels. I've never heard the term "autogas" until today.

Few personal vehicles run on propane, and while there are many places where propane cylinders can be purchased or refilled, I've never noticed a public station selling propane for cars, but they do exist. There isn't one in the city of 100,000 people where I live. Some city busses or other fleets run on propane or sometimes natural gas, but these have private refueling stations.

In American English, "gas" is short for "gasoline". It's a liquid (not a gas) and what would be called petrol elsewhere.

Diesel is still just diesel. Cars running on diesel are less common in the US, but they do exist. Most gas stations sell diesel, mostly for larger pickup trucks and the large semi trucks used to commercially transport large trailers.

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    I hear "LPG" very occasionally, and "LP gas" almost never. I agree that "propane" is vastly more common than either, and I also had never heard the term "autogas". (Every so often you'll catch a reference to petrol, but that's certainly not a common term here as elsewhere.)
    – Charles
    Jul 22 at 19:14
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    @Charles At least in the Southeast, the term "LP" or "LP gas" (LP = "Liquid Propane") is used commonly by propane vendors, particularly in the context of use of propane as a heating or cooking fuel. I have never heard it called "autogas" aside from in the other answer on this question, though. As an American, I would translate "autogas" to "gasoline for cars," not "liquid propane."
    – reirab
    Jul 22 at 21:44
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    As someone who lives in the south and is widely traveled throughout the US, I've never heard the acronym "LP". However, I have heard the term "liquid propane" spelled out. But it's usually just called "propane", with no need to clarify that it's been compressed into a liquid form.
    – Cody Gray
    Jul 22 at 23:24
  • @CodyGray: The irony is that "LP" actually stands for "liquefied petroleum", rather than "liquid propane", despite the fact that the substance in question is, in fact, liquid propane, as opposed to being a petroleum derivative which needs to be liquefied under pressure because it would not otherwise be liquid.
    – supercat
    Jul 23 at 14:45
18

"My car runs on propane" is the correct phrase. Americans are familiar with the term "propane".

If an American is confused when you say "my car runs on propane", it's not because of your language usage, it's because in America it's very rare for a car to run on propane, as others state.

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The common term for that fuel in the United States of America is "propane".

The fuel is much more commonly used in grills than automobiles.

The term "propane" is commonly used, it's firmly established in pop culture, for example the animated series King of the Hill.

cartoon showing Strickland Propane company

(Image source: King of the Hill wiki)

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  • Another answer already suggests "propane"...
    – fev
    Jul 22 at 19:49
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    @lev yes but none of the existing answers demonstrated the prevalence of the term to my satisfaction, or gave any evidence. Jul 22 at 19:49
  • And none of the other answers reference a classic (for better or worse) American sitcom
    – TCooper
    Jul 23 at 15:02
6

Diesel is diesel, petrol is gas (as in gasoline), and LPG is propane.

In the US you either say, "My car runs on gas." or "My car runs on diesel." However, the general term is "gas". Even if the car runs on diesel, most people will still say, "I need to go get some gas." We only make the distinction if there's a need to. You can also say "fuel", it's somewhat regional which term is more common.

I don't think I've ever seen a personal vehicle that runs on propane. Certainly not a typical car or truck from a dealership. Some fleet vehicles like city buses run on natural gas, but those are still uncommon here.

In the US, propane is mostly sold in small tanks to run heaters and stoves for campers, grills, and other portable appliances. Gas stations (and some grocery stores) have it setup so you drop off a spent tank and pick up a fresh one, but there are places where you can refill your own as well.

In terms of personal vehicles, there is pretty much just gas and diesel here. We only use unleaded gas and that's split into octanes (89, 91, 93) and ethanol flex-fuel blends (the ethanol distinction only matters if you have a really old car though).

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    Propane is sold in very large quantities in the U.S., too, particularly for heating. For example, my house is about 1/2 mile past where the local city's natural gas lines run, so people who want gas heating here have 500 gallon propane tanks (that's just under 1,900 liters, for those of you outside the U.S.) Those tanks are permanent installations, though, and local propane vendors have tanker trucks that they bring by occasionally to fill your tank. You don't just go to a gas station and by 500 gallons of propane.
    – reirab
    Jul 22 at 21:48

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