Motoring News

Going gas: Fuel of the future lurking for SA

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – AutoGas, usually liquid petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG), or methane from biomass in South Africa, is being punted as a viable and affordable alternative for petrol and diesel.

In an industry slowly transforming towards electrification, gas can reduce polluting exhaust emissions by as much as 25% and this message came through clearly at a recent Automechanika online seminar.

‘Powered by Gas: AutoGas as a viable alternative energy source’, was presented with the full support of the Retail Motor Industry and in association with Absa as part of an ongoing programme of seminars relevant to the upcoming Automechanika Johannesburg trade fair for the automotive aftermarket (Johannesburg Expo Centre, Nasrec, from June 7-10 2022.

SA ‘WELL-POSITIONED’

Speakers online were Eddie Cooke, Attie Serfontein (national director of the Automotive Remanufacturing Association), Frank MacNicol (ARA chairman), and Justin Schmidt (head of New Sector Development at Absa).

Cooke, who participates in international AutoGas projects and works with the South African Bureau of Standards on this subject, says the country is well positioned to use gas as a vehicle fuel because the relevant regulations are already in place and LPG and CNG are readily available.

“Contrary to what some people think,” Cooke explained, ”gas as a fuel is safe because the fuel tanks are 20 times stronger than those used for petrol or diesel and safety valves cut off the gas flow in a collision,”

He added that Earth has five times more gas than oil and a greater number of countries has gas than oil so it was not only a fuel source available globally, but also considerably less expensive than petrol or diesel – as much as half the price of petrol and one-third the price of diesel.

LOOK OUT SA – INTEREST IS GROWING

”Although there are very few vehicles in South Africa that use LPG or CNG as a fuel the conversion of petrol- or diesel-powered vehicles can be done nationwide,” he added.

Frank MacNicol, whose ARA organization has been involved with gas conversions for many years, said there was growing interest in this business and they were becoming more affordable with light vehicle conversions costing less than R20 000 and heavy truck conversions costing R200 000-R250 000.

Such costs, he added, could be amortised fairly quickly, particularly if the vehicles were well-used.

Serfontein added that costs could be even lower if the major conversion components were made locally instead of imports. ”Engines running on gas are also cleaner – no oil contamination and service intervals can be significantly extended.

”A gas conversion industry would provide employment and upskilling in the local motor industry.“

BEAT THE CITY DIESEL BANS

MacNicol also told The Corner: ”Gas conversions on existing internal combustion engines would extend the lives of present-day service and maintenance workshops and the people who work in them.

“Vehicles with gas conversions also escape the ban on driving ICE vehicles in congested areas and operating in certain countries after cut-off dates.”

It was also revealed during the seminar that there were 27-million gas-powered vehicles on the planet – some countries as much as 50% of all road traffic.

LPG was used as a vehicle fuel for the first time in Germany in 1930 but since then the United States has been responsible for many of the latest developments and technologies that make this fuel even more efficient.

…AND CLOSER TO HOME

The Metrobus service in Johannesburg has more than 140 dual-fuel buses, Nigeria is looking seriously at using gas on more vehicles and was initially targeting the conversion of more than two million vehicles.

“Now it has to be seen,” MacNicol said, ”whether South Africa will also accelerate its move in this direction but the time is certainly ripe with a roll-out in the Western Cape shortly.”

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