Petrol prices have yet again registered a hike: this time by four rupees a litre. And people running their cars on compressed natural gas (CNG) are having the last laugh.
Fluctuating crude oil prices at the global level pushed many car owners to shift to CNG over the last few years. According to a recent survey, the number of cars running on CNG in Delhi and the National Capital Region increased by 52,828 in the last one year.
In 2008, there were 1.22 lakh private cars running on CNG. The recent survey report said the number of CNG-propelled private cars has reached 1.75 lakh, an increase of about 43 per cent.
Delhi and NCR have 2.97 lakh vehicles running on CNG, which includes the world's largest CNG-run public transport system. The survey was conducted in May 2009 by an independent agency for Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL), CNG distributor in Delhi, Noida and Greater Noida.
“Large numbers of people are now shifting to CNG, which is a cleaner as well as cheaper fuel. The growth of 43 per cent in just one year is remarkable," said Rajesh Vedvyas, managing director, IGL.
Fuel economy is the biggest draw for CNG-run vehicles. According to IGL officials, vehicles running on CNG save 66 per cent on fuel cost. "My fuel bill has come down from Rs 6,000 to just Rs 2,000-2,200. I recovered the initial investment of Rs 40,000 on getting a CNG kit retrofitted in just one year of its installation," said Arun Bhatia, manager with a private bank. Bhatia drives a Chevrolet Optra.
"CNG is no more the poor man's fuel. People driving sedans and SUVs, too, get CNG kits retrofitted," said Manmohan Singh, Director (commercial), IGL.
Queues at stations
Though car owners feel that queues shortened at the filling stations in the last few months, waiting time at the filling station and low gas pressure in dispensers are two problems that owners of CNG-run cars face.
"Only recently, I waited for more than an hour for my turn at one of the filling stations in the morning. I ultimately got just 3 kg gas and it did not last even one full day. I was again in a queue at another CNG station the same evening," said Akshat Puri, a Karol Bagh-based businessman.
Vedvyas said IGL has massive infrastructure development plans to improve the availability of CNG in Delhi.
"Our efforts in the last nine months have borne fruit. We have installed electric compressors at 41 online and 12 daughter-booster stations to improve pressure. They help in dispensing more gas in less time," Vedvyas said.
In July 2008, the Delhi government had promised to allot land at 50 sites to set up more CNG stations. "Construction has already started at 18 locations," said Vedvyas. Delhi is expected to have over 200 CNG stations by the 2010 Games.
“DTC has also agreed to open six CNG stations inside its depots for private buses. This will help in reducing pressure on other filling stations, and we would be able to use more dispensers to fill autos and private cars," said Singh.