Is Auto LPG the Solution for Rising Fuel Prices?
Published on : Friday 03-09-2021
How Auto LPG conversion for two-wheelers & four-wheelers could be a tipping point in combating pollution and surge in petrol & diesel prices, explains Suyash Gupta.
The rise in prices of petrol and diesel in recent days and weeks has once again amplified the need to pay attention to our vehicular fuel policy while also raising questions on our approach to address pollution-related issues. Now that the unlock phases have begun to – almost fully – kick in and the all-around vehicular mobility nearly returns to pre-Covid levels – notwithstanding the fear of the incoming third wave – air pollution, a perpetual challenge for policymakers is set to rear its head again.
However, instead of persisting with petrol and diesel, widely known for their debilitating and even life-threatening gas emissions, if the authorities considered cheaper and more environment-friendly alternative fuels such as auto LPG, we would not only be adopting a more appropriate vehicular fuel option but also be breathing cleaner air. For a country that has nearly 300 million vehicles including two wheelers on its roads, the urgency to convert those existing vehicles to those suitable for running on auto LPG can never be overstated. What's more, there can't be a more opportune time than now, when humanity is confronted with the worst public health crisis in recent memory. That the coronavirus primarily infects the lungs just as noxious emissions from petrol and diesel do underlines the pressing exigencies of the time.
Petrol touching 100-rupee a litre mark
In recent weeks and months, there has been a dramatic and relentless rise in fuel prices. With state capitals witnessing steep hikes in petrol prices to an unprecedented 100-rupee a litre, several tier II and III cities have also gone the same way resulting in a squeeze on the pockets of the common man, who has already been troubled enough due to the pandemic-driven economic slowdown.
Pollution an abiding challenge: Study attributes Covid to air pollution
Frequently ranked as one of the most polluted countries in the world, hosting a large number of globally most polluted cities, pollution has been a policy nightmare for authorities particularly air pollution. Despite their best efforts, truly tackling air pollution has remained a pipedream. Since 2019, individual cities have taken an initiative towards resolving their air pollution woes under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). Although it's too early to make a judgment, it is safe to say that we are still too far off the mark. Given the relatively dominant impact of vehicular pollution or transport-driven factors, one practicable way to make a start is by addressing vehicular emissions. A recent study has pointed out a direct link between the prevalence of PM2.5 emissions, possibly the most dangerous vehicular discharge, and Covid cases and deaths. In other words, areas already high in air pollution are more susceptible to Covid infections and after effects.
Auto fuel emissions, a colossal problem
As mentioned earlier, India has a 300 million-strong fleet of two-wheelers and four wheelers plying on its roads. In an estimate, a regular passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Imagine the extent of the damage by the combined impact of all the passenger vehicles (and other vehicles) in the country. And this is only CO2. The hydrocarbons, Particulate Matter (PM), Carbon Monoxides (CO) and many similar deadly emissions can all in combination wreak havoc on a country's environment.
How auto LPG conversion can be a turning point now
First, converting the existing number of two-wheelers and four-wheelers, which are huge in number, into auto fuel-enabled vehicles would immediately yield enormous benefits from the environmental standpoint. The sharp reduction in petrol and diesel-driven hydrocarbons, particulate matters, Carbon Monoxide (CO) and greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane and many others can bring instant relief to millions of Indians subjected to their toxic effects on a daily basis. Given the direct correlation between these emissions and several cardio-vascular, respiratory and lung-related diseases and other life-threatening malignancies such as cancer, this would also relieve an already overstretched health infrastructure in the country while saving precious lives. It is noteworthy that with a zero Global Warming Potential (GWP), auto LPG far outshines vehicular greenhouse gases such as methane and CO2 which have a GWP of 25 and 1 respectively. Equally notable is the fact that auto LPG has near-negligible emissions for PM and Nitrogen oxides (NO), extremely toxic from the human health standpoint. In fact, exhaust emissions of vehicles running on auto LPG as compared to those running on petrol emit 75% less CO, 85% less hydrocarbons, 40% less NO while causing 87% less ozone depletion.
That according to latest emission tests, tailpipe emissions were found to be lower than even BS-VI-compliant petrol vehicles illustrates the imperative to initiate auto LPG conversion immediately.
Second, in light of the skyrocketing petrol and diesel prices, auto LPG, which is nearly 50% cheaper than traditional fuels, would pave the way for a lower pricing regime in general in the economy. The inextricable linkage between transportation costs and the cost of a final product or service, it would help the end-consumers and the broader economy in a substantive way.
Third, since there is limited availability of auto LPG vehicles, the mass uptake of LPG conversion kits can also generate new business opportunities and employment. In that context, the government must relax the Type Approval Norms which would give an impetus to the retro fitment market. In addition, the government must also reduce GST rates on conversion kits and bring the latter under a lower slab. From the point of view of businesses, remember that the installation costs for auto LPG refuelling stations are 5-6 times lower than CNG.
Fourth, auto LPG conversion can pave the way for a smooth driving experience. Not only the fuel's high-octane content ensures faster ignition but also rules out knocking and loud noise. As such, due to negligible residual deposits, they involve low maintenance costs. It has been estimated that an engine running on auto gas has a life twice that of a petrol engine with running costs being nearly 40% cheaper than petrol. What's more, an LPG conversion kit allows a vehicle to run on both petrol and auto LPG.
And fifth, the policy push to auto LPG conversion would help India cement its position as a responsible power which has the courage and the foresight to address domestic environmental, vehicular and health issues at the same time. In addition to the recent ethanol-blended petrol policy, the scrappage policy and green tax, the auto LPG conversion initiative would further take the country towards meeting its Paris Agreement commitments.
Suyash Gupta has been at the forefront of promoting clean auto fuel in India for the past 17 years, both as Director General of the industry body, Indian Auto LPG Coalition, and Managing Director of CleanFUEL India. A Bachelor of Business Administration from Thames Valley University, London, Mr Gupta is a member of the Global Steering Committee of ‘Cooking for Life’ initiative promoting use of cleaner fuels and represents India on the Core GAIN Group of World LP Gas Association at Paris.
A former consultant to National Energy Technology Laboratory, US Department of Energy, Mr Gupta is also a member of apex committees of Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India, being a member of Standing Committee on Emission Legislation (SCoE) & Central Motor Vehicle Rules (Technical Standing Committee) (CMVR-TSC).
In this role, he has authored several articles, chaired key sessions, traveling extensively to present papers on Indian LPG Scenario across several cities in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Poland, Japan and many other countries.