Although South Africa has been slow in adopting alternative energy sources, there is a renewed focus on using natural gas for mobility with various South African companies and public sector entities working closely together to create a renewable energy strategy.
So says Murray Price, managing director of Eqstra Fleet Management, who adds that the infrastructure to support this initiative will be expanded exponentially in the near future.
Using natural gas and alternative fuels as an energy source for mobility has been widely proven to be cost effective and more eco-friendly and there are currently more than 16 million vehicles globally operating on alternative fuel. In addition the evolution to alternative energy sources helps conserve non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels, which results in less consumption and lower fuel prices. This has been one element in the recent reduction of crude oil prices.
“There are currently less than 15 filling stations in South Africa that offer CNG or LPG re-fuelling facilities and we strongly suspect the lack of infrastructure is one of the main reasons why most large fleet operators have not yet adopted this technology. Considering that CNG and LPG offer substantially lower carbon emissions and a fuel saving in excess of 40%, we would urge corporates to consider adopting this technology,” says Price.
“In our view, there should be at least 20 to 30 sites in central JHB/ Gauteng alone before it becomes feasible to operate a regional fleet on CNG/LPG. Indications are that this critical mass could be achieved in the next two years, as more companies convert to this alternative technology,” he says.
Despite this limited infrastructure, there are solutions available to assist fleet operators should they decide to take this route. “Sasol, for example, has added LPG fuel pumps at certain of their fuel stations and with time, these would be more readily available. In addition, mobile filling stations are available to corporates with a fleet size larger than 50 vehicles,” he says.
In a number of case studies, Eqstra has established that using CNG as an alternative to petrol realised a cost saving of 30,8% for fuel over a distance of 3 000 kms. Other advantages of using CNG as an alternative fuel include:
- Abundant reserves of CNG gas are yet untapped.
- 90% lower carbon monoxide emissions than petrol.
- 25% lower CO2 emission and 40% lower NOx
- Reduced fuel fraud risk.
Price points out that using LPG realised a cost saving of 4.13% over the same distance. He adds that LPG is more readily available than CNG and as it is refined from petrol, it is subject to higher pricing but also offers the following advantages:
- 75% lower carbon monoxide emissions.
- 85% lower hydrocarbon emission.
- 40% lower NOx
- Better fuel efficiency.
- Reduced fuel fraud risk.
Additionally, in both cases many suppliers will offer reduced prices based on usage and VAT can be claimed on CNG transactions as well.
Hydrogen injection offers a third alternative for diesel vehicles. Hydrogen injectors inject a small amount of oxyhydrogen (HHO) into the fuel before the ignition phase. The HHO diesel mix has a shorter combustion period which provides better efficiencies and cleaner engines with a subsequent decrease in carbon emissions. Advantages of using hydrogen injection include the following:
- HHO reduces carbon monoxide up to 90%. Carbon monoxide is a fuel and HHO is a catalyst which promotes its combustion.
- HHO reduces hydrocarbons between 10 – 90%.
- HHO reduces particulates, especially organic particulates, between 10 – 70%.
- HHO reduces EGT (exhaust gas temperature) from 50O – 150OF (depending on engine load).
- HHO improves and cleans heavily carbonized engines. In some long term tests fuel efficiency improved between 10% and 20% by cleaning the engine. Up to 80% of this efficiency was maintained after removing the device.
- Only a small and very specific amount of HHO is needed. The amount of HHO will vary depending on the size and engine capacity.
- Horsepower is increased between 3% and 12% depending on the engine and the grade of diesel used.
- HHO works best when the vehicle is travelling at certain speed or above. There is no benefit when the engine is idling.
“The fuel price has shown an average increase of 13% Y-o-Y since 2003,” concluded Price. “Even with recent price reductions – and with fuel contributing more than 45% of total fleet costs – the use of alternative fuels offers a viable solution to reduce costs as well as carbon emissions.”