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Holden gets ready to gas up Sportwagon

Its a gas: Holden's new dedicated LPG system is set to be included in the Commodore Sportwagon.

LPG to return to Aussie wagon as Holden engineers a space-saver tank for Commodore

Holden logo22 Jul 2011

By RON HAMMERTON

A NEW dedicated LPG system for Holden’s Commodore range will dispense with the conventional space-sapping boot-mounted tank, not only paving the way for a return to LPG in the Sportwagon but potentially giving sedan and ute models a cargo advantage over Ford’s new EcoLPi Falcon and aftermarket systems.

The Holden Eco-branded system – mostly engineered in-house – is set to get a tank tucked under the back of the car when it replaces the current dual-fuel system in the New Year.

Insiders say the new LPG Commodores will lose no boot space, unlike Ford’s just-released Falcon EcoLPi sedan, which has a shallower boot than petrol models but also loses the full-size spare wheel as standard equipment.

Although Holden is yet to spell out details of its system, GoAuto understands it will retain gaseous multi-point injection, unlike the Orbital liquid injection system adopted by Ford for the Falcon and Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) for its E3 range.

Again available only with the Port Melbourne-made 3.6-litre V6, the dedicated system tuned only for LPG instead of the compromised set-up for both petrol and LPG will generate more power and torque than the current 175kW/318Nm petrol/LPG engine.

However, it is unclear if the new LPG Commodores will challenge the 198kW/409Nm outputs Ford has extracted from its 4.0-litre EcoLPi engine, which became an option across the Falcon range this month

13 center imageLeft: Current Commodore LPG badge. Below: Ford Falcon EcoLPi.

Holden also is expected to bin the old four-speed automatic transmission – a hangover from the previous-generation Commodore – and step up to a six-speed auto to bring it in line with other Commodore models and match Ford’s step up to a ZF six-speed self-shifter for its EcoLPi range.

The improved transmission will not only bring the LPG Commodore into the 21st century in terms of driveability but also improve fuel economy from the current 13.4 litres per 100km and perhaps match the new EcoLPi Falcon XT’s 12.5L/100km.

The current Holden LPG engine – available only on the entry-level Omega and mid-range Berlina – is based on the original Alloytec 3.6-litre V6 introduced in dual-fuel form on the previous-generation VZ Commodore in 2005.

Back then, the system was also available in the Commodore wagon, thanks to a donut-shaped LPG tank that took the place of the spare wheel under the cargo floor. The spare wheel was instead mounted against one side of the luggage compartment.

The original petrol tank was also retained, with the engine capable of switching between the two fuels for flexibility and extended range.

With the arrival of the VE model in 2006, the same dual-fuel engine continued in LPG Commodore sedans and utes that also retained the traditional cylindrical steel LPG tank in the sedan’s boot and ute’s rear tray – but LPG was discontinued in the new Sportwagon due to packaging issues.

Now, Holden and its LPG tank supplier appear to have engineered a solution with a gas tank mounted under the back of the Commodore, using the space usually occupied by the petrol tank and apparently without encroaching on boot space.

This solution means all three Commodore body styles – sedan, wagon and ute – can accept the new tank arrangement without space penalty in cargo areas.

Holden will become the only local manufacturer to offer an LPG-equipped wagon, as Ford has discontinued its Falcon wagon and does not offer an LPG Territory. This will give Holden an advantage with fleet buyers.

The Falcon EcoLPi’s tank encroaches on boot space of the sedan and tray of the ute. In the sedan, the LPG tank is mounted under the floor of the boot, absorbing the space of the spare wheel and raising the floor level to create a shallower boot.

To try to free up room, Ford has dispensed with the full-sized spare wheel as standard equipment, instead offering a puncture-repair ‘goo’ can or no-cost space saver spare. If owners insist on the full-size spare, they can have it, but luggage space is further restricted.

It is unclear if Holden will follow a similar route with the spare wheel, but it is expected to match Ford’s spread of LPG across the model range.

Insiders say Holden’s new LPG system will be offered beyond the current Omega and Berlina variants, probably spreading to the SV6, Calais and Caprice to fall in line with Ford’s EcoLPi availability on G6E and XR6 Falcons.

Holden’s current dual-fuel option will continue until the arrival of the new system in early 2012, avoiding the LPG model drought experienced by Ford.

In Ford’s case, its previous system could not achieve the Euro 4 emissions standards that came into force in mid-2010, meaning Ford dealers had to do without an LPG alternative for several months until the belated arrival of EcoLPi this month.

Holden is expected to start rolling out its pre-launch publicity campaign for the Eco LPG system from September or October of this year.

The company’s senior product communications manager Jonathan Rose told GoAuto that Holden was starting its campaign early because it would take time to raise awareness among consumers about the benefits of the new LPG system.

As GoAuto reported in January, Holden’s new gaseous dedicated LPG system – replacing the current delivery system supplied by Impco – is believed to be a stop-gap until its own liquid injection system is ready, perhaps with the arrival of the VF Commodore from about 2014.

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