DUBAI // Five Dubai Municipality cars have been kitted out with compressed gas engines, making them the first local government fleet to test out the greener energy option.
The initiative, launched yesterday, is expected to reduce carbon emissions from each converted car by about 70 per cent.
"The project will achieve an estimated fuel saving of about Dh2.3 million a year if we convert 400 vehicles," said Hussain Nasser Lootah, the director general of Dubai Municipality. "It will also have a significant environmental benefit by reducing the rate of carbon emissions by 70 per cent in each vehicle when using natural gas."
The municipal vehicles will work on a hybrid basis, combining both petrol and compressed natural gas (CNG) options. The five vehicles will be tested in the first phase of the initiative, but almost 500 vehicles will be converted eventually, according to officials.
Worldwide, at least 12 million cars run on CNG engines, and that number is expected to climb to 50 million by 2020.
The municipality believes residents will be encouraged to follow suit, because the change is safe and allows motorists to save both money and the environment.
Conversion to CNG can cost between Dh7,000 and Dh10,000, depending on the size of the cylinder installed, said Sharun Viswanathan, a project engineer at Compressed Gas Technology (CG Tech).
CG Tech is the gas company helping the municipality with the technical aspects of the conversions. To date, they have converted 200 vehicles in the Emirates to CNG engines. The company uses conversion kits bought from suppliers in Europe, but says future projects may make it possible to manufacture CNG engines in the country.
Hesham Ali Mustafa, the general manager of Emirates Gas, is hoping to introduce a CNG refill facility at service stations.
"We have a very robust plan on how we want to introduce the engine infrastructure in Dubai," said Mr Ali Mustafa, adding that he hoped to offer the refill service to taxi companies and the Roads and Transport Authority.
"We will also introduce it more heavily around the community and raise awareness of the financial incentives," he said.
Nassir Arzamkhan is a partner at Air Engine, a company which claims to have introduced the first compressed air engine. He said the CNG conversion was a positive step, but "CNG is still a non-renewable energy source".
"CNG vehicles are less polluting than gasoline vehicles, but they still pollute," he said. "Our air engine does not cause any pollution at all."