There are usually two sorts of reactions when you see a 90 series LC getting CNG refilled on any of the local gas stations. And one of those two reactions involves language and gestures beyond the civic guidelines of PakWheels Blog, or any online blog, or any civilized mode of communication for that matter.
CNG, just like Imran Khan, summons only the extremest of emotions and opinions – either you adore him, or you absolutely loathe him to the core.
There are no middle grounds. There are no modest paths. There is no sane stature.
There is a distinctive Blue corner and a distinctive Red corner, and both are almost always at daggers drawn.
The CNG users are loyal to the point where they lead a whole lifestyle revolving around the CNG schedule. On Non-CNG days, the vehicle is used only for the very necessary – trip to the office, and maybe, just maybe, to the hospital in case a kid falls ill – provided he is the only child and gets straight A’s. Unnecessary and leisure trips are re-scheduled and shifted to the CNG availability days. Grocery is done religiously on the CNG walay days and relatives are requested to postpone their birthdays, weddings and even childbirths to appropriate CNG days. Movies are downloaded in advance to be watched while waiting in the CNG queue, and CNG stations become the most notorious venue for friends’ late night get-togethers and meet-ups. Facebook timelines start to flood with photographs of full CNG gauge captioned *feeling lucky*. Roads get cramped with cars trying hard to barely move from static when the light turns green. The most popular conversation suddenly becomes “konsay station pay CNG mil rahi hai?”. Some living close even make a trans-provincial trip to KPK to get their cylinders refilled. Red, once again, becomes the color of death as that tiny red light means you have some 20 odd kilometers of cheap traveling left. Every CNG user calculates fuel average in rupee per kilometer, not kilometer per liter or kilometer per kilogram, and knows the precise figures for his car for up to 7 decimal places.
The CNG haters absolutely despise anything remotely related to gas. They hate gas so much that they wouldn’t buy a car which has been driven on CNG ever. They hate gas so much they would burn firewood instead of Sui Gas to cook. Hell! They wouldn’t even eat mooli wala paratha. They tend to have their own calculations ever-ready to prove that CNG, over a period of 10 months, ends up costing more than petrol. The calculations of course involve some vague assumptions and far-fetched fuel economies on petrol, but hey, if you say something extremely loud with an LOL and a sasta sarcasm in the end, it is automatically rendered correct. Their favorite punchline is “Why did you buy a car if you can’t afford petrol?” – Which is an arguable notion to say the least. They run their cars with air-con off, try a million hypermiling techniques, and drive their Civics (which they bought because Vtec – bhagti bohat hai) under 1500 RPM 99% of the time to match their CNG wala friend’s gas mileage.
So, what is the middle ground? Is there any? Lets try looking into some CNG myths and facts.
1. CNG is harmful for the car.
Yes and no. Yes, two identical brand new local cars, one to be driven on CNG and one to be driven on Petrol are going to have different engine conditions after 200k kilometers. CNG burns at higher temperature, is dry and that will take its toll on the petrol intended engine. You can minimize the potential damage by running the car on petrol for a few minutes every day, but that is not a fix. You carry extra 60kg in your boot at all times which compromises suspension and braking as well. Your car’s brake bias isn’t designed to work with 10 stone permanently in the trunk. So Yes, CNG isn’t harmless for the car. But then how many of us keep cars for 200k kilometers? And the odds are that you will end up harming the engine earlier by skipping an oil change over the tenure, or by mistakenly pouring fake, substandard oil in your car (yes, the odds are strong on that with the abundance of fake oils in the market).
2. CNG ends up costing you more.
That depends on the make and usage of the car. Generally, running a car on CNG ends up being 30% cheaper than on petrol. If you travel 100km a day, this difference will make up for the initial cost of the installation in less than a year. Now there is another aspect to it as well. There are cars which sell better with CNG and there are cars which don’t. A Cultus with CNG is desirable. A Civic or a City, especially automatic, with CNG on the other hand is pretty much an unsellable item. If you install CNG in your Cultus, it will not only provide you with the savings in running costs, the CNG Kit and cylinder price will be added to the car’s value. If you have, God forbid, installed CNG in a Civic, or even worse, in a City Vario, you will lose not only the price of the CNG setup, but the resale of the car will be gravely affected as well.
3. CNG is as good, or better fuel than Petrol for local cars.
No. Not going into the technicality of burning temperature and octane, there are reasons why it is the secondary fuel. The lack of ability to provide similar power as Petrol on the same engine is one. Not being able to refill for anything more than a 150km journey is another drawback. No storing facility is yet another con, especially here in Pakistan where CNG schedule allows for availability of CNG only on specific days.
4. That Accord/Mark II/Land Cruiser guy driving his car on CNG needs to be hanged in public.
Again No. 1980’s gave the world some lovely memories; hitch hiking with strangers, music which made immense sense, footballers with an actual character, and the original Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze. In Pakistan, the 80’s unfortunately taught us to be judgmental. We were taught us to get to a higher moral pedestal, and shame everyone who is not on the exact same level. The 80’s taught us to stop whatever productive stuff we were doing, and start wondering “Why doesn’t he have a beard?” “Why doesn’t he have a mustache?” “Why does he have a smaller mustache?” “Why is she wearing a sleeveless?” “Why is he wearing a skirt?” Alright…the skirt guy may genuinely need awakening, but otherwise as a nation, we have developed into a 200 Million lot of gossipy phuppian who have nothing better to do than to pass moral verdicts.
CNG in a Land Cruiser? Well it’s purely his prerogative. He earns his own money, drives his own car, is OK with waiting in the queue for half an hour to get CNG, and above all, still has enough power to eat your Cultus for breakfast, make a u-turn and do it all over again day-in day-out. So no Mr. Wallace, you have no moral standing to judge him. You have a petrol driven Cultus/Civic/Corolla, good for you. He drives his LC on CNG, his call. Be and let be.
Now coming to the real question – Should I install CNG in my car?
That depends on a few factors.
What sort of traveling are we talking? What car is in question here? How much idling is involved? What kind of savings are you aiming at? How long do you plan to keep the car? How good are you with regular maintenance? Which city do you reside in and how much is the CNG availability.
If you drive 100 and above kilometers a day on your carburetor Cultus or Mehran, are often stuck in traffic with the AC on, and live in CNG available city, then CNG makes a very strong case. Just get a new/used CNG kit installed, add colder plugs and try maintaining it by driving a couple of km on petrol every once in a while.
If however you drive 50 kilometers a day on a Honda City, mostly on Kashmir Highway in the capital with very few CNG stations and huge queues, then it’s probably just not worth it. Your car already returns you excellent fuel economy, you will just be making a 10-20% improvement in fuel average at the cost of the whole hassle and sleepless nights.
Whatever you do, CNG or No-CNG, drive with care, and more importantly enjoy the driving process.