South Africa a promising NGV market
It may all still be in the initial phases, but things are gaining momentum nevertheless. For instance, there are already some 385 taxis and buses in the state of Gauteng (that's where Johannesburg is). Also there, a taxi company has decided to have 20% of its fleet converted to run on CNG by 2014. That's not much, but it's something for a start.
The market is bound to blossom as there is government backing available. The National Climate Change Response program is there to support implementation of natural gas powertrains instead of petrol and diesel ones, while the Industrial Development Corporation has promoted the introduction and use of CNG and biomethane in public transport. Also, the South African National Energy Research Institute has teamed up with Virtual Gas Network to establish CNG refueling infrastructure.
Of course, little could be done without proper natural gas availability. Luckily, there are vast resources available from neighbouring countries such as Namibia and Mozambique, plus abundant reserves have been discovered off the South African shore, so there should be no obstacles in terms of supply.
One issue to be addressed however is the negative public perception of CNG due to safety concerns. Some of it stems from confusion (CNG is often mistaken for LPG, which, incidentally, also has excellent safety record), but a lot remains to be done to convince the average user of all the advantages and benefits of CNG use.
One of them is of course slashing fuel bills, but perhaps not as spectacularly as is possible elsewhere in the world – in South Africa CNG is only by some 30% cheaper than conventional fuels. Still, the aforementioned taxi company committed to converting their fleet (Benoni Taxi Association) expects to save the equivalent of some 18,5 million dollars by switching to CNG. Hopefully the BTA will set an example soon to be eagerly followed by other fleet operators. Especially that carmakers (e. g. Tata, Volkswagen and Mercedes) are now conducting feasibility studies for introduction of methane-powered vehicles to the South African market.
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