Compressed natural gas or CNG-powered cars are the future. At least auto makers think so. Notwithstanding the restricted availability of CNG, car makers foresee a jump in CNG-run car sales substantially, thanks to better mileage and lower emissions, and also de-regulation of petrol prices.
"From 15,000 units in 2010-11, the sale of our CNG cars grew to 40,000 units in 2011-12," said Mayank Pareek, managing executive officer, marketing at market leader Maruti Suzuki. Maruti offers CNG options in its Alto, Eeco, Estilo, Wagon R and SX4 models.
Others including Hyundai and General Motors are also seeing more customers preferring CNG cars as an option because of their higher fuel economy, especially after the freeing up of petrol prices that has increased the fuel bill for many car owners. Hyundai has gas variants of i10, Santro and Accent. At present, the running cost is Rs 5.05 for petrol cars and Rs 2.09 for CNG-run cars.
Though the additional CNG kit makes cars costlier by Rs 60,000, the total running cost after 50,000 km for a CNG-run car works out to be Rs 1,04,500 against Rs 2,52,500 for a petrol version.
However, slow expansion of the network of CNG-dispensing stations is likely to act as a roadblock, say industry officials.
“The availability is limited to Delhi, Mumbai and Gujarat,” said P Balendran, vice-president, General Motors India. “As on December 2011, the number of CNG stations in India stood at around 635, which is really nothing much to write home about. We understand that there is a plan to expand it to 900 stations in 2013. Instead of 200 new CNG stations every year, we should have 400 if we want to see 4 million cars run on natural gas by 2015.”
Maruti Suzuki has projected that CNG cars will account for 20% of the total sales by 2015-16 – means a giant leap from the current 3.5% in four years.