Compressed Natural Gas, otherwise known as CNG, has been making headlines across India for the last couple of years. Not only is it far better than regular fuel in terms of efficiency, it is an eco-friendly option for cars across the country. CNG’s popularity has pushed automobile manufacturers to install CNG kits in their cars as an option for interested buyers. Apart from that, there are numerous CNG kits available for easy installation in most cars. Compressed Natural Gas is also cheaper than petroleum and diesel which makes it an obvious option for car owners in the country. As of today, the Government of India has approved about 20 CNG kits that are suitable for vehicle installation.
As CNG or Compressed Natural Gas grows in popularity in India, people are educating themselves more on the gas and how it can be helpful – economically and environmentally. Methane, or CH4, is the biggest component in CNG which is considered even better than Liquid Petroleum Gas or LPG. One of the biggest benefits of CNG is that it is lighter and less dense than air. This means that CNG cannot catch fire, even if it mixes with air. Using CNG in a car is safer so long as people take the required precautions while using it. Another massive reason behind the Government pushing for more CNG use is that it emits Carbon Dioxide (Co2) and very low levels of Carbon Monoxide (Co3). The VRDE or Vehicle Research and Development Establishment and ARAI or Automotive Research Association of India have been offering better guidance and safer installation help for all CNG users. Italy and Argentina are currently the leading CNG kit importers in India with brands like Pelmag, Landirenzo, Tomasetto Achille, Lovato, and Lomani standing out as the best.
There are currently two types of CNG kits available in the market and used in most automobiles. Those CNG kits are namely:
The Venturi CNG kit is a mixing unit that delivers an amount of gas into the vehicle’s engine. Venturi kits are a lot more affordable and easier to install in cars when compared to other kits. These kits deliver a fixed amount of gas into the engine’s intake manifold based on the input from the throttle. Venturi CNG kits can be easily installed into any automobile, fuel-injected or carburetor driven. It can also be installed with or without the use of an ECU or Electronic Control Unit.
Sequential CNG kits are considered the better option when it comes to automobile installation as they control the gas flow through the injectors fitted alongside the petrol injectors in the manifold. There is also a separate ECU for the CNG kits which electronically control and monitor the amount of gas pushed into the engine. While Sequential CNG kits are the better option, they can only be installed into electronic fuel injection supported vehicles.
One of the biggest questions asked within the automobile world is, “Is there a difference between Venturi CNG kits and Sequential CNG kits?” The simple answer to that question is yes, but you can find an elaborated comparison between the two kits below.
Affordability is probably the biggest advantage of a Venturi CNG kit along with the easy installation process. There are no complicated procedures or complex wiring required when installing a Venturi-type kit. Because the Venturi kits do not require an ECU to install, they can be setup quickly and by anyone. A Venturi CNG kit with a 12 Kg cylinder for a small vehicle like the Maruti WagonR will come with a price tag of about Rs. 40,000, based on the brand selected.
The biggest disadvantage of using a Venturi CNG kit is its unpredictability. Because a Venturi kit cannot control the flow of CNG into the engine, it pushes a fixed amount directly into the engine’s intake system. This irregularity causes a lot of stalling and pickup loss as well. Also, because of this, the kit and engine need frequent tuning and cleaning – something that requires a certain amount of expertise.
There are a number of advantages of using Sequential CNG kits but the biggest advantage is that you get better performance and mileage from your vehicle through a more controlled CNG injection. However, there is usually about a 15 percent drop in performance on account of CNG having lower combustibility and higher octane rating when compared to petrol. This means that CNG performs a lot better on high-compression vehicles rather than regular ones.
Although there are relatively no long-term disadvantages of using a Sequential CNG kit, it is the initial cost of the kit that can be considered a disadvantage. Some brands of Sequential kits can cost up to more than two times of a regular Venturi CNG kit. The installation process is another small disadvantage as it requires modification and drilling adjustments to the engine’s intake manifold.
If you are in the market for a Sequential CNG kit, you have to decide whether you want an Open-Loop or a Closed-Loop system. The difference between the two is that one uses the oxygen sensor installed in the vehicle’s exhaust to collect feedback and deliver it to the ECU and the other does not. While they are both perfectly fine to use on supported vehicles, they do come with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Closed-Loop system Sequential CNG kits are definitely the more eco-friendly option as they use the Lambda sensor or Oxygen sensor that is placed in the exhaust of a vehicle to collect feedback and pass it on to the ECU. This sensor checks whether the emissions from the exhaust are in the permissible limits. Using this feedback, the ECU controls the flow of CNG gas into the engine and prevents excessive pollution.
Thanks to better control over the flow of CNG gas into the engine, the Closed-Loop system offers greater fuel-efficiency. The injection of gas into the engine is always precise and optimal which, in turn, reduces emissions and helps keep the environment healthier.
While the Closed-Loop system is great for the environment, it comes at a price – reduced performance. Because the ECU and the Lambda sensor work together to inject only the amount of gas required and reduce pollution, the vehicle will not have the same acceleration power a petrol engine can offer. This might be a major issue for those who are switching over from petrol-fueled vehicles to CNG-fueled ones.
Essentially the opposite of a Closed-Loop system, the Open-Loop system for a Sequential CNG kit is a system that does not use the Oxygen or Lambda sensor to collect feedback from the exhaust. This system lets drivers accelerate their vehicles as and when they need by injecting more gas into the engine as will.
If the vehicles are older and do not have a Lambda or Oxygen sensor, it saves the vehicle owner’s money as they do not require one, something which costs an additional Rs 4,000 or so. Newer vehicles, however, do come with the Oxygen or Lambda sensor but if the owners do not connect the ECU to the sensor, it remains an Open-Looped system. Hence, the amount of CNG is not restricted into the engine and the pick-up and performance is better.
The biggest disadvantage of an open-Loop Sequential CNG system is that it creates more exhaust emissions. Since there is no Lambda sensor to control the emissions, the vehicle can produce larger amounts when compared to Closed-Loop systems. Another disadvantage is that Open-Loop systems can cause damage to the engine and exhaust valves as they create a lot of heat inside the engine on an account of no CNG flow monitoring.
Today, there are approximately 20 different brands of CNG kits, which are approved by the Indian government, available in the country. Both, Venturi and Sequential type CNG kits are produced by these brands and have been approved by different RTO’s across the country. The brands available in India today include:
Car dealers in India may tie-up with any of these above-mentioned kit manufacturers so it is best to do a little research before you can opt to buy a CNG kit. Apart from dealers, CNG kits can also be purchased and installed at independent garages or automobile repair shops. Here, you can find a number of brands but it is best that you learn more about the technicians and the reputation of the garage before moving forward. You can also check out reviews of previous customers to gain a little more knowledge about the garage. Most importantly, if you do choose an independent garage to install your CNG kit, you must ensure that they complete the required paperwork before the installation is complete.
|Sequential Kits||Original OBD-II – Rs 55,000 Rs. 33,000 – Rs. 37,000 (Including installation)|
|Conventional Kits (Closed-Loop)||Rs. 22,000 – Rs. 25,000 (Including installation)|
|Conventional Kits (Open-Loop)||Rs. 15,000 – Rs. 20,000 (Including installation)|
|Additional Charges||Rs. 2,000 – Rs. 3,000 (Registration Charges + RC Endorsement) Rs. 1,200 – Rs. 1,500 (Added Insurance Endorsement Premium)|
When it comes to CNG Kit maintenance, manufacturers don’t provide any specific routine. The basic maintenance rules apply for any CNG kits. Those maintenance tips are listed below:
A CNG cylinder usually comes in either a 10 Kg or 12 Kg capacity and they offer anywhere from 80 to 85 percent of their maximum capacity. Therefore, on a full cylinder, a CNG vehicle can offer up to 200kms of mileage before it requires refilling. If a CNG kit is installed in a car while the warranty is still valid, the car’s warranty is considered void.
As described earlier, a CNG engine is a lot more efficient when compared to a petrol engine. CNG gas is also cheaper than petrol which means you can save a lot more by using a CNG-powered vehicle. Compared to 1 litre of petrol, 1 Kg of CNG gas delivers almost 40 percent more power and efficiency. Therefore, CNG definitely increases the vehicle’s mileage significantly.
When you choose to install a CNG kit in your vehicle, you must ensure that you find a kit from a CNG station that is approved and authorized by the government. It is advised to install Italian Sequential CNG kits as they are considered the best quality kits. Installing a CNG kit requires professional and expert level technicians which is why authorized dealers are recommended. There are hundreds of unauthorized centers that sell CNG kits which can cause more harm to your vehicle. You should also ensure that the center that does the installation of the CNG kit in your vehicle completes the required paperwork and insurance as the warranty of the vehicle is considered void once the installation starts.
Here are some handy tips before you install a CNG kit:
Here is another common question that pops up every time someone mentions CNG kits. Is it better to choose a company fitted CNG kit or opt for an aftermarket CNG kit? The common misconception here is that company fitted CNG kits offer a better performance and last longer as compared to aftermarket kits. However, that is absolutely incorrect. Whether you choose a CNG kit fitted by the car company or one that can be purchased from an independent seller, it all depends on the type and brand of kit you choose. For example, Maruti Suzuki calls their CNG-powered vehicles S-CNG or Smart-CNG and claim that their brand of CNG kits make vehicles run smoother. Looking deeper into Maruti’s S-CNG branding, we find that it is nothing more than an ordinary CNG kit. These kits are pre-installed into Maruti vehicles by a manufacturer.
On the other hand, if you opt for a Sequential CNG kit from an independent seller, all you need to have is a vehicle that comes with an Electronically Controlled Injection system. Both the S-CNG and Sequential CNG kit will perform the same and give the vehicle the same performance – provided they are both from the same brand. However, when it comes to costs, the company fitted CNG kits can go up to Rs. 60,000 – Rs. 70,000 more than a petrol variant from the same manufacturer. Now, if you buy a Sequential CNG from an independent seller, it will cost you about Rs. 40,000 – Rs. 50,000. That is a minimum saving of Rs. 20,000 when you choose Sequential CNG kits. Unfortunately, installing an aftermarket CNG kit in your car will immediately void the warranty from the manufacturer which is the sole reason they overprice their CNG-powered vehicles.
The price of petrol and diesel are always on the rise which makes CNG and LPG vehicles extremely attractive. Given the fact that a kilogram of CNG gas costs about Rs. 30 less than a litre of petrol and about Rs. 20 less than a litre of diesel, it comes as no surprise that more vehicle owners are making their way over to the CNG side. But it isn’t only the reduced priced that makes CNG so attractive. It also improves the performance of the vehicle significantly and reduces the cost per kilometer by an average of Rs. 3 to Rs. 5. Finally, using a CNG kit in your vehicle is considered eco-friendly as well. So, before you go out and buy a CNG kit for your vehicle, you should know these following things:
The first thing you should find out when thinking about installing a CNG kit in your vehicle is whether your vehicle is compatible or not. While the newer cars usually come with CNG fuel system compatibility, not every vehicle is, so you should seek out that information. If the vehicle is compatible, you will need government approval to get and install a CNG kit. Getting your older vehicle approved for CNG installation can be a time-consuming effort and you will have to get a “Fuel Change” Registration Certificate from the local authorities. If you wish to install a CNG kit on a new car, the process is a lot less daunting.
When you compare the maintenance costs of a CNG-fueled vehicle to a petrol/diesel powered vehicle, the former can be quite high. The reason behind this is that CNG kits can reduce your vehicle’s performance and power. This means the vehicle will require tuning and maintenance on a regular basis. The investment required for a CNG kit can go from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 60,000, depending on the model of your vehicle. However, that cost is easily recovered in about 2-3 years thanks to the relatively low costs in running a CNG-powered vehicle.
CNG gas engines are quite fuel-efficient, however, you must remember to refill the cylinder regularly because the gas is not available in all filling stations. The steady popularity of CNG should see more stations pop up in the near future but, for now, you should keep an eye on CNG filling station near you. Another tip is to always carry a can of petrol/diesel as a backup when driving around in your CNG car.
As mentioned earlier, maintenance and damage repair costs on CNG-powered vehicles are extremely high. This leads to higher insurance premiums as well. Depending on the age and model of the vehicle you own, the premium amount for your vehicle is calculated and for CNG vehicles, that amount is relatively higher.
The rather significant difference between the prices of petrol/diesel and CNG gas makes opting for a CNG kit in your car a rather safe bet. But, what are the benefits of having a CNG kit in your vehicle? Here are some of the advantages:
Mileage is one of the biggest advantages of having a CNG kit in your car. A CNG kit uses a lot less fuel to travel a similar distance of a petrol/diesel car. Along with that, CNG gas costs lesser than what petrol or diesel costs – sometimes about Rs. 20 – Rs. 30 less. Even the average cost per kilometer between CNG and petrol vehicles is about Rs. 3-5 in favour of CNG which means you can save thousands every month on fuel alone.
If safety is your main concern, CNG is definitely the way to go. Compared to petrol, CNG is not as flammable which makes it safer in case of an accident. CNG-powered engines also produce significantly lower levels of Carbon Dioxide which means these kits are environmentally-friendly.
While the initial cost for installing a CNG kit in your car can amount to about Rs 60,000, that amount can be recovered in about 2-3 years. The reason behind this is that the running costs for a CNG vehicle are extremely low. After those 2-3 years, your CNG kit will be saving you money every time you refill the cylinder. CNG kits are perfect for those people who intend to use their cars for more than 5 years.
It is believed that company-fitted CNG kits are designed to give car owners the freedom to refrain from proper maintenance responsibilities. However, every CNG car owner must understand that the vehicle was originally designed to run on petrol and therefore requires some nurture and care. Here are some tips to expand your CNG kit life span:
This might sound bizarre, especially if your CNG kit allows you to start your car on the gas, but you should always start the vehicle on petrol. In fact, you should let the engine get properly lubricated, for at least 1 kilometer, before switching to CNG.
On CNG cars, parts like air filters are prone to more wear and tear. This is why you should be servicing your vehicle frequently. Rather than wait for a servicing at 15,000 kilometers, you should service your CNG car at 12,000 kilometers. This simple step might save certain perishable parts or target areas like the coolant and engine oil.
One mistake most of us make is to take our CNG powered vehicles to local, untrained mechanics because they are the cheaper option. However, this could cause more harm than good. Whenever the CNG kit requires tuning, you should choose an authorized service center or a professional technician.
When you drive a CNG car with spark plugs that were designed for petrol engines, they tend to wear out quicker. You can either use specialized spark plugs that are designed for CNG cars and cost about Rs. 200 per spark plug or ask to have the gap between the spark plug metal tip and the source of the spark reduced. This can be done by a mechanic.
As the CNG tank empties, the pressure inside it falls quickly and can also make the valve explode. That is why it is important to refill the tank when the gas level reaches about 20-30 percent. Regularly replacing the valves also helps in keeping the tank safe. The valves for a CNG tank cost anywhere between Rs. 200-400 depending on the type of kit you have installed.
A: No. CNG is not bad for a car’s engine. In fact, a CNG kit makes your car a lot more efficient and economical. Big names such as Hyundai and Maruti Suzuki are now producing company-fitted CNG cars and the number for CNG are higher than that of petrol or diesel. Honda is another option in this segment with one of the biggest-selling models, the Honda City, giving people luxurious options in the market.
A: Safety is a major concern for people who want to switch over to CNG vehicles. CNG is completely safe to use because the CNG ignites at a temperature of 649 degrees Celsius whereas petrol ignites at a much lower 315 degrees Celsius. In the case of a leakage, there is greater risk in a petrol-powered car than there is in a CNG one.
A: Buying a CNG car is definitely worth is for the following reasons:
1. If your daily travel includes about 60-70 kilometers, a CNG car is the far better and economical option.
2. Because petrol and diesel is more expensive than CNG, you will be saving money while driving your CNG car.
3. CNG cars are environmentally friendly as they produce Carbon Dioxide and very low level of Carbon Monoxide. If electric cars are too expensive, CNG cars are the next best option.
4. You can do some research before choosing between company-fitted and aftermarket CNG kits but both have their advantages.