Czech drivers increasingly saving on petrol and switching to cheaper bio-fuels

Rising petrol prices in the Czech Republic have sparked a steady drop in demand, with sales dropping by a quarter in the last five years. People are driving less, planning their trips better and adapting their vehicles to run on cheaper types of fuel.

Photo: Khalil BaalbakiPhoto: Khalil Baalbaki Despite brief fluctuations when the price of petrol temporarily dipped, the cost of fuels has steadily climbed over the past five years. Drivers filling up their tanks in the Czech Republic spend on average 500 crowns at the pumps. While five years ago this got them 21 litres of the best selling Natural 95 petrol, today it only pays for 14 litres. And some drivers now are often only filling up for 200 crowns as they take account of the costs of every trip and their straitened circumstances.

The higher prices have contributed to a steady drop in sales. Petrol stations sold seven percent less of the best-selling petrol last year as compared to 2012 and over the past 5 years petrol sales have slumped by a full quarter with a decrease of half a billion litres.

With petrol currently selling at over 36 crowns per litre, many drivers have started adapting their vehicles to run on cheaper types of fuel, a change that requires minor engine modification and can save the car owner a significant amount of money long-term. For instance driving on E85 bio-fuel can save drivers thousands of crowns a month – filling up your tank with E85 is some 500 crowns cheaper than with regular petrol. An increasing number of petrol stations now offer the E85 ethanol-based fuel alternative and its sales have doubled over the last year.

According to available statistics, some 6,000 car owners have had their vehicles adapted to cheaper fuels in the past five years, paying between 4,000 and 10,000 crowns for the modification. Mechanics claim that thousands of others are taking high risks by running their cars on cheaper fuels without undertaking the changes. They warn that this can seriously damage cars and the money saved long-term will not pay off.

Photo: Kristýna MakováPhoto: Kristýna Maková The slump in petrol sales is also caused by companies looking closer at their transport costs and replacing their fleets with vehicles designed to run on cheaper fuels. For instance Czech Post is now in the process of acquiring 1,500 new vehicles that will run on CNG – compressed natural gas –in a move that is expected to halve annual fuel costs.

And, last but not least, higher fuel costs have increased the popularity of car sharing – a trend that was not originally hailed with great enthusiasm by auto autonomous Czechs. Today many people who need to drive to work daily have turned to car sharing as a means of keeping down their growing fuel expenses. Some pick up colleagues and share the monthly costs, others go on the internet and take their pick from the increasing number of offers available.