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An increasing number of South Africans rely on public transport services to get around, but the recent increases in petrol prices have caused additional strain for the populace who relies on public transportation. The availability of Natural Gas as an alternative fuel source has relieved a significant amount of the financial burden for a number of public transport service providers and their commuters.

CNG saves costs for public transport companies

According to NGV Gas, Johannesburg’s Metrobus and Tshwane’s TRT busses have converted a large portion of their fleets to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as an alternative to fuel. In 2015, the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) launched its first batch of approximately 30 dual-fuel CNG busses, followed by another 150 busses in 2016. These busses are already in operation and have their own in-house filling station at their depot in Braamfontein. Johannesburg was one of the first cities in sub-Saharan Africa to operate a TRT fleet on CNG.

Metrobus covers 330 scheduled routes and 128 school routes, transporting thousands of passengers on a daily basis. The conversion to Natural Gas has decreased the amount of money invested in operational fuel.

CNG Holdings, through its division, NGV Gas has converted more than 1200 taxis and more than 300 fleet vehicles in Johannesburg to run on CNG. The converted busses are seeing between 20 to 40% reductions in fuel costs.

Converting the Metro busses to run on CNG was not particularly challenging, the company says. In the case of Metrobus, the diesel tanks were retained and the gas cylinders were placed on the roof under a moulded cover. The conversions were done by Mercedes at its factory and the CNG electronic control unit (ECU) was integrated into the bus operating system.

The TRT busses in Pretoria are dedicated gas busses, operating on 100% gas. Having dedicated gas engines means these busses save substantially in fuel costs. Diesel CNG busses such as those at Metrobus operate on a Diesel Dual Fuel System (DDF) where both gas and diesel are injected into the cylinder at an electronically controlled ratio to ensure the best performance. The dedicated gas busses at TRT use gas exclusively. Vehicle conversions kits, consisting of the cylinders, injectors, filling nozzles, regulator and ECU, were installed by SAGA-qualified and SAQCC-certificated NGV Gas engineers.

CNG is much cleaner than petrol and diesel, with up to 27% less CO2, NOX, HC and PM emitted compared to other fossil fuels. This is not just of environmental importance; the cleaner fuel significantly lowers vehicle maintenance and running costs, with less contamination and residue build-up across engine components.

According to the 2017 Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV) Global Report, there are over 24-million vehicles running on natural gas worldwide. In Africa, there were 192 078 vehicles running on natural gas in 2016, and during 2017 the number increased to 193 509 units.

Tanzania plans to shift to natural gas-powered busses on its rapid transit routes in Dar es Salaam, a move that is expected to cut fuel use by up to 50%. More than 100 trunk busses with a capacity of 140 passengers will provide both normal (stopping at all stations) and express services (stopping only at connector stations).

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