Alternative fuels often suffer from a range of issues, which includes stringent regulations and poor consumer safety practices, sometimes resulting in fatal accidents. Plus, the lack of interaction amongst stakeholders results in hindrances in the development and adoption of such fuels. Addressing this concern is the Indian Auto LPG Coalition (IAC), the nodal body for the promotion of auto LPG in India.
Members of the coalition include oil sector PSUs, private auto LPG marketers, kit suppliers and equipment manufacturers. The coalition works in tandem with the World LPG Association, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) and Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI). Auto Tech Review met Suyash Gupta, Director General, IAC, to understand the viability of auto LPG in the Indian context, as well as its global acceptance and implementation.
THE CASE FOR ALTERNATIVE FUELS
The development of alternative fuels in India, like many other markets, is facing the same set of problems which are a natural outcome of rapid adoption of environmental-friendly fuels. Traditionally, the easiest way out has always been to have in place a replica of the technologies, standards and codes, and consumer safety practices which have been adopted in other markets in the past. However, unless the program is carefully orchestrated, modified as per local requirements, driving environment, consumer understanding, vehicle maintenance practices and other relevant factors, it’s not likely to work.
For example, what works in Europe, might not work in India, considering the differences in climate, variations in fuel purity and composition, and vehicle maintenance schedules and practices. The use of LPG as an automotive fuel became legal in India with effect from April, 2000. Since then more than 500 cities have been covered by Auto LPG with more than 1,100 stations. However, ever since LPG was allowed as an auto fuel in India, more than two million illegal kits have found their way on to cars in the domestic market, a potentially critical situation that needs to be addressed immediately from the safety perspective.
Safety practices, regulations, environmental concerns and emission norms are some of the issues that are broadly addressed by IAC. Gupta said that with a host of Indian cities including non-metros like Allahabad and Gwalior, consistently ranking among the top for having highest pollution levels in the world, there is an urgent need to find quick, lasting and more viable solutions for improved air quality. This is where the role of OEMs assumes significance. Vehicle manufacturers must come forward and get on to the auto LPG bandwagon. OEMs have got to play a role and complete the eco-system, which is not sustainable without their participation, added Gupta.
THE ROLE OF OEMs
OEMs have many reasons to opt for auto LPG, since vehicles running on this fuel emit significantly reduced particulate emissions as compared to diesel and petrol vehicles (96 % less NOx than diesel, and 68 % less NOx than petrol). In addition to this, auto LPG vehicles emit about 22 % lower CO2 than petrol, which is comparable to the CO2 emissions of CNG-powered vehicles.
With air pollution taking a heavy toll on the health of the general population in India, efforts by the government and the judiciary to promote clean fuels have gained momentum in recent times. The government has already implemented some radical measures in the last few years. A case in point is also the Supreme Court’s verdict that vehicles not complying with Bharat Stage IV (BS IV) emission standards would not be sold after March 31st, 2017.
Such measures will be ramped up in the future and hence OEMs might benefit from incorporating Auto LPG in their product strategy and actively working towards bringing cleaner fuel options to the consumers, said Gupta.
AUTO LPG FOR TWO-WHEELERS
Auto LPG can be a green fuel option even for two-wheelers, which comprise the bulk of vehicle sales in India. According to a recent study, 55 lakh two-wheelers, of the 85 lakh private vehicles in Delhi, are scooters/motorcycles and contribute about 32 % of the overall vehicular pollution in the city, and the ratio is similar in other cities in India. Auto LPG is well suited for use with most two-wheeler engines and can also help bring down running costs, since auto LPG prices are only around 50 % that of petrol in the country.
The two-wheeler OEMs which start manufacturing auto LPG bikes stand to gain significantly from the first mover advantage and can have a real chance of penetrating deep into semi-urban and rural markets in the country, said Gupta.
THE GLOBAL SCENARIO
After petrol and diesel, auto LPG is the third most used fuel in the world and is used more widely than natural gas. Auto LPG has been the fuel of choice in more than 70 countries globally, with total auto LPG volumes being close to 25 million tons per annum. In the international scenario, India is ranked 19th in terms of auto LPG consumption. Topping the consumption list is South Korea at around 3.8 million tons, closely followed by Turkey at two million tons annually. India consumes a miniscule 0.35 million tons per year, which presents a vast scope for improvement. India promoting the use of auto LPG in a bigger way will not only strengthen its commitment toward clean fuel development, but also provide fresh impetus to domestic players willing to bring a paradigm shift in fuel usage.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley