Taxis set to care… for the environment
CARBON emissions remain a bane for both environmentalists and vehicle manufacturers alike. The latter, even though it contributes to a fifth of overall carbon emissions, still remains the most heavily penalised.
The carbon tax emissions that came into effect in September 2010, and the subsequent hike in vehicle prices bares testament to this. While manufacturers work tirelessly to keep their vehicles running as clean as possible, there remains the small issue of not having cleaner fuels available locally, which scupper any plans of said manufacturers bringing more efficient engines to our market.
With that in mind the Gauteng Provincial Government, together with the South African National Taxi Association Council (Santaco), have embarked on a partnership pilot project to convert minibus taxis to be able to run on both liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), as well as petrol. So it was that I attended the launch of this initiative, which was held at the Gerotek test facilities west of Pretoria.
The R3m project, which was facilitated by one of Blue IQ’s automotive subsidiaries, the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC), is geared towards converting 70 taxis to operate in Tshwane and Johannesburg. The split will be 55 and 15 taxis for each municipality respectively. According to Barlow Milal, CEO of AIDC, there are additional plans to ramp up the figure to the tune of 150 vehicles in the next 12 months.
The conversion costs R20 000 and only 2.7l petrol Toyota Quantum models are eligible for the conversion at this stage. So in essence the initial 70 taxis have cost the tax payer R1.4m. The additional 150 taxis to be converted will in essence require some R3m bringing the project’s capital tally to R4.4m.
The project is at this stage exclusively piloted in the Gauteng district, and no concrete plans were given as to whether the project would roll out to other provinces. Interested taxi owners are asked to complete an application form with the AIDC, followed by an assessment of the vehicle itself and, should the vehicle be successful, it is converted within 24 hours.
According to Bilal, there is also a full reimbursement of lost profit for the taxi owner put in place. Sasol has invested R1.2m in refueling infrastructure, which will somewhat alleviate the challenge of refilling the 50l LPG tank located at the back of the vehicle below the boot floor.
At a price of R7,50 per litre, it would cost roughly R375 to fill the LPG tank, which is somewhat cheaper than its unleaded petrol counterpart. However, while the vehicle runs on both petrol and LPG, it must be mentioned that consumption of the latter is significantly higher than that of the conventional petrol engine, and thus only 300km will be attainable on a full tank of LPG.
I should point out that at any given point in time the taxi cannot run solely on LPG. It is in fact augmented by petrol, which according to Bilal, aids only to lubricate the fuel injectors. According to a media statement by the Department of Economic Development, project findings have shown an 11% reduction in carbon dioxide and 31% in carbon monoxide.
In case you were wondering, there are currently no levies or tax on LPG.
A Toyota Quantum with the LPG conversion.
A close up of the LPG conversion.