Taxis set to care… for the en­vi­ron­ment

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

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.

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