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CNG is gaining popularity but there are 7 things you need to be aware of before getting in the driver's seat

Friday, 27 December 2013 - 7:55am IST | Agency: DNA

Diesel is cheaper than petrol, but petrol cars are cheaper than diesel powered ones. So what’s one supposed to do? Well, over the past decade, a rising number of car buyers have been opting for a petrol car with a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) kit fitted. Opinions vary. Some go gaga over the lower operating cost, while others crib about the reduced power. Some feel that CNG kits a blessing while others curse them soundly. Here’s what you need to keep in mind prior to taking a decision.

1 Key benefits
CNG proves to be a much safer alternative than both petrol and diesel thanks to a high auto-ignition temperature and an extremely narrow range of flammability that prevents it from accidentally catching fire on hot surfaces, thereby cutting down the chances of unexpected mishaps. As the CarDekho Team points out, in the form of CNG we are getting a fuel option that is not only cheaper but also cleaner, safer and much more efficient than what we have been using till date. You can bring home a brand new, original CNG car with a factory-fitted CNG kit sitting under its hood (definitely more advisable), or get your petrol car converted suitably so that it would now run on a dual-fuel system by means of a retro-fitted CNG kit.

2 Basic hurdle
Not all petrol cars have mechanicals compatible with CNG fuel systems. Only those cars  included in the ‘CNG Approved’ listing of the Registering Authority of the state or union territory under which the buyer’s car has been registered are eligible for conversion from petrol to CNG in that geographical area. Plus, only those are the cars that can get their Registration Certificate (RC) branded with the ‘fuel change’ seal, which is mandatory as per the laws of the Indian Government.

3 Savings factor
On the economydecoded portal, Nikhil Hemrajani points out that your running cost in CNG is half or maybe a bit more than half of petrol. The money that a person invests in the CNG kit should be recovered within 1.5-2 years. So, on that basis if you need to recover a maximum of Rs. 60000 in 2 years you need to use the car to the extent of 24000 km in 2 years, making it approximately 40 km of travel every day. After 2 years each and every time that you get your CNG refilled you’ll be saving money.

4 Advisable method
He recommends going in for company fitted CNG kits. Those installed outside might cost you 10-15k less but they are not at all successful and you lose the warranty of the car if you get it fitted later. Secondly, if you for the CNG version the original RC of your car will take a month longer to come to you. This is because it takes more time to get the CNG added on the RC by the showroom people. Those travelling more than 40 km everyday should certainly go for a CNG version, he feels.

5 Problems encountered
While using a CNG kit there are problems such as starting problems and jerks. As per the guide at cartrade.com, the main message in owning a CNG car is to give it for servicing at regular intervals, thus avoiding major repairs to your CNG kit. While there have been stray incidents of bursting with CNG cars, on inspection it has always been shown that that those accidents had occurred with domestic gas fitment, and not with kitted cars.

6 Power loss
While driving with CNG mode, the engine performance won’t be as comfortable as with petrol.

You can feel a lack of power and pickup. However, the running of engine becomes smoother as the engine gets warmed up completely. The estimated loss of power in a CNG engine is about 10%, resulting in a reduction of top speed of 3% and reduced acceleration.

7 Tank it up
An important point to be kept in mind is that if you are going for long drives, ensure that the CNG tank is full and be aware of the next CNG filling station available along each stage of the route.

Also, it will be good to keep sufficient store of petrol to use, providing for an emergency when finding a CNG filling station becomes difficult.

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