ABU DHABI // Emirates Transport will start converting its diesel vehicles to environmentally friendly compressed natural gas (CNG) from the start of next year.
Work has already begun on converting government cars and taxis from petrol.
Emirates Transport has also been experimenting with a full-sized bus, fitting it with CNG cylinders in addition to its diesel tank.
"Converted vehicles are 100 per cent safe and I would say they are safer than petrol cars," said Mahir Al Sayed Al Rafaee, manager of the CNG centre at Emirates Transport.
The vehicles can be switched back to a reserve of petrol while moving should the car run out of CNG.
Converting diesel vehicles will result in a 40 per cent savings in fuel use, while conversions from petrol in cars will mean a drop in fuel costs of between 30 and 35 per cent, Mr Al Rafaee said.
Emirates Transport has converted more than 2,000 vehicles, with 75 more done each month.
The major benefit of CNG is less carbon emissions.
Private car owners can now also have their vehicles converted at Emirates Transport in Khalifa City A. They must provide registration.
"If any private car owner turns up to the conversion centre with all vehicle papers and licences, they can convert their vehicles to CNG," Mr Al Rafaee said.
Emirates Transport will then "issue them a certificate verifying the appropriate conversion of their car".
It costs Dh7,400 to convert a four-cylinder vehicle, Dh8,000 for a six-cylinder and Dh9,400 for an eight-cylinder, and takes between four and five hours, depending on the make and model.
Mohammed Al Jerman, general manager of Emirates Transport, said the converted vehicles met European safety standards.
Since 2010, 1,300 taxis and 500 Abu Dhabi Police cars - 10 per cent of the police fleet - have been converted, as have another 500 government vehicles. Abu Dhabi Police aims to have 25 per cent of its fleet converted by the end of the year.
Emirates Transport has plans to open more conversion centres in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in the coming months. Mr Al Jerman said the plans were "under discussion with Adnoc Distribution".
There are three CNG tanks available: 50-litre, 65l and 75l. A 50l tank can hold 12 cubic metres of CNG and can run about 100 kilometres.
The conversion centre at Khalifa City A is the largest in the UAE. There are five centres in operation.
CNG technology has been outsourced from Italy and German inspectors ensure vehicles are properly converted, Mr Al Rafaee said.
Recent research shows a vehicle using CNG will typically emit 80 per cent less nitrogen oxide, up to 70 per cent less carbon monoxide and 80 per cent less non-methane organic gas, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority says.
Petrol cost Dh1.72 a litre (special).
CNG cost Dh1.32 a cubic metre.
Adnoc diesel cost Dh2.35 a litre.
Dubai diesel cost Dh3.60 a litre.
Saving for converted diesel vehicles to CNG 40 per cent.
Saving for converted petrol cars to CNG 30 to 35 per cent.
• Dh7,400 for converting a 4-cylinder vehicle
• Dh8,000 for a 6-cylinder vehicle
• Dh9,400 for a 8-cylinder vehicle
Reduction in emissions
• Carbon dioxide by 20 to 25%
• Carbon monoxide by 50 to 80%
• Nitrogen oxide by 25 to 60%
• Non to methane hydrocarbon by 50-80%
Source: Emirates Transport