The compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle industry has shown a remarkable growth, with sales surging by 40.7 per cent in the 2022-23 fiscal despite a 49 per cent increase in gas prices, according to a report by CARE Ratings. The revision in the gas pricing formula by the Centre is expected to reduce the volatility in CNG prices, thereby providing further impetus to vehicle sales.
At present, CNG vehicles have a market share of around 12 per cent in the passenger vehicle segment. If the number of CNG filling stations is increased, sales could rise exponentially. As of August this year, the number of CNG filling stations in the country was 5,953. The Centre plans to take this number to 17,700 by 2030.
Yogesh Shah, senior director, CARE Ratings, said: “Now, with the reduction in CNG prices and its volatility under the newly administered price mechanism, the attractiveness of CNG as a fuel has further extended, which will boost sales in FY24.”
A Tata Motors’ spokesperson said: “Currently, we offer CNG options in Tiago, Tigor, Altroz and Punch. As of the second quarter of FY24, over 19 per cent of our total sales came from CNG vehicles. Our CNG sales grew by almost 46 per cent during April-September 2023, compared to the same period in 2022.”
Tarun Garg, chief operating officer, Hyundai Motor India, said: “The CNG-powered vehicle share is around 12 per cent (January-September 2023) in the passenger vehicle segment. The strengthening of CNG fuelling infrastructure, new model launches and the relative price difference between gasoline and CNG have all contributed to robust sales in the CNG entry-level segments of the Indian auto market.”
Hyundai currently has three models in the CNG range — Grand i10 NIOS (hatchback), Aura (sedan) and the newly launched EXTER (SUV), which together contribute around 10 per cent to the overall sales. The company sold 32,729 CNG-powered models during April-September as compared to 34,496 units in the corresponding period last year.
Rahul Bharti, executive officer, Maruti Suzuki India, said: “The realisation that CNG can be a powerful and scalable tool to reduce carbon emissions while being good for the economy will help large-scale adoption of this technology. The government has a policy of increasing the CNG penetration in the energy basket from 6 per cent to 15 per cent. Coupled with the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board’s progressive measures, the city gas distribution network in the country is growing exponentially. The fuel efficiency of Maruti Suzuki CNG vehicles is now in the range of 30 to 35 km/kg. Such technology enhancements will also increase customer pull.” Currently, Maruti sells 14 models in the CNG variant.
Advantages of Compressed Natural Gas
- Cost-effective CNG offers substantial savings for individuals with long commutes and fleet owners who cover extensive distances on a daily basis, as the CNG-powered vehicles result in better mileage as compared to petrol/diesel-run powertrains.
- Green fuel Commonly referred to as green fuel because of its lead and sulphur-free characteristics, CNG reduces harmful emissions. Being non-corrosive, it enhances the longevity of spark plugs.
- Safe The properties of CNG make it a safe fuel. It is stored in high-gauge seamless cylinders which are certified and, therefore, there is negligible chance of leakage. It is lighter than air, so in case of leakage, it just rises up and disperses into the atmosphere.
- High auto-ignition temperature CNG is less likely to auto-ignite on hot surfaces, since it has a high auto-ignition temperature of 540°C. This high-ignition temperature and limited flammability range make accidental ignition or combustion very unlikely.
- Low operational cost The operational cost of vehicles running on CNG, as compared to those running on other fuels, is low. Moreover, a CNG vehicle can run both on CNG and petrol if the former is not available.
- Increased life of oils Another practical advantage is the increased life of lubricating oils, as CNG does not contaminate and dilute the crankcase oil.
- Lower emissions CNG is a clean burning fuel that produces fewer emissions than petrol/diesel. When burned, it produces significantly lower levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. This makes it a more environment-friendly option.
- Cost savings CNG is often less expensive than petrol or diesel, which can result in significant savings. The cost of CNG can vary depending on the location and supply, but in many cases, it is cheaper than traditional fuels.
- Energy security CNG is domestically produced, which can improve energy security and reduce dependence on imported crude oil. This can also reduce the impact of fluctuations in global oil prices.
- Longer engine life CNG burns cleaner than traditional fuels, which results in less engine wear and tear and thereby, longer life. This is because CNG produces less carbon build-up, which can reduce engine performance over time.
- Low fuel-tank capacity Most CNG models have a fuel tank capacity equivalent to 60 litres of water. This can store up to 8-10 kg of CNG and the car can run up to 175-200 km in one filling.
- Fuelling infrastructure While the number of CNG stations is growing, they are not widely available.
- High upfront costs Vehicle prices are coming down, but upfront costs can still be a barrier for some.
- Space issue As the CNG cylinder is fitted in the boot of the car, CNG variants have less space in trunk.
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