Converting two-wheelers: a potential game-changer for Autogas in India
Autogas was introduced to India in 2001, although the actual retailing of the fuel through an Auto LPG Dispensing Station (ALDS) started only in late 2002 with the introduction of approved Autogas conversion kits. For ten years now, the Indian Autogas Industry has been treading a path of steady progress, consolidation and – above all – safety. Nonetheless, over the past two years, the business has not grown as rapidly as expected. This has been due to several factors, including high international prices of LPG, increased penetration of compressed natural gas (CNG) in the road-transport sector and the increased diversion of domestic LPG into the automotive sector.
Slower growth has, however, provided an opportunity for the Indian Autogas industry to look beyond the conventional vehicles and, in particular, at the potential for large-scale conversion of two-wheelers to Autogas. This has led to an objective being set to provide Autogas conversion kits to two-wheeler customers at affordable price so as to make Autogas the preferred fuel for such vehicles in the future.
The objective is not just to cut the fuel budget for the customer, but also to bring environmental benefits as Autogas out-performs gasoline and diesel, as well as some other alternative fuels, in the majority of studies comparing environmental performance.
In 2011, a project called “Project Green Stroke” was initiated by the Indian Auto LPG Coalition (IAC) – a non-profit organization regarded as a nodal body for the Autogas industry in India. A Project Group comprising various stakeholders was set up, working alongside M/s Rohan BRC – the conversion kit manufacturer – to develop a two-wheeler conversion kit at an affordable price.
Market surveys were carried out to get feedback on customers’ expectations as earlier efforts by some vendors to launch two-wheeler kits had failed because they not only proved costly but were badly designed: the siting of the tank at the back of the vehicle was very inconvenient to the rider.
After detailed consultations and a series of meetings with kit-component vendors, a two-wheeler conversion kit was successfully developed at an affordable price of about 5 000 to 5 500 rupees, and with the fuel tank fitted on the side of the vehicle (see the picture below). The kit includes an Explosives Department (PESO) approved Autogas tank of about five litres. A Multifunction valve is fitted on the tank to enhance safety. Vehicle performance when using Autogas, including mileage, is comparable to petrol. The two-wheeler remains dual-fuel, i.e. it can run on either petrol or Autogas.
The Type Approval for this kit has been obtained from the International Centre for Automotive technology (ICAT) and the same kit has been approved by Transport Authorities in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. The Kit has been launched in several cities in those states and has been successful in drawing potential customers’ attention to Autogas. Autogas sales to two-wheelers have been rising constantly since launch of the kits.
The sale of such kits would undoubtedly continue to increase with enhanced awareness and knowledge of the product among potential customers. This could be achieved by carrying out a series of promotional campaigns – a task that has already been launched by Auto LPG Marketing Companies under the aegis of IAC.
A series of programmes has already been launched at the retail outlets of oil marketing companies in various cities in Gujarat and Maharashtra to educate two-wheeler owners about the cost and environment benefits of using Autogas. Posters and banners are being displayed at various prominent placed on the premises of retail outlets and leaflets containing information about the kits are being distributed. Special feature of the promotional campaign is the positioning of a demonstration bike fitted with an Autogas kit. Two-wheeler customers coming to fill up with gasoline at the outlet are encouraged to test drive the bike to gain first-hand experience and their queries are answered by experts. Arrangements to fit the kit can be made at the outlet itself. Similar promotional campaigns are planned to be launched in other cities.
The Indian Autogas industry firmly believes that the prospects for two-wheeler conversions are very bright. This is supported by the fact that the number of two-wheelers throughput India exceeds 57.5 million, or three-quarters of all the road vehicles in the country. Coordinated and dedicated efforts by all stakeholders, including ALDS dealers, could lead to a huge success for the project. It really could become a “game-changer” for the entire Indian Autogas industry.
For more information about the two-wheeler conversion programme and Autogas generally in India, please contact Mr Chauhan by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.