The Gauteng provincial government and the South African National Taxi Association Council on Friday launched a R3-million pilot project to convert 70 taxis on the Pretoria and Midrand routes into dual-fuel vehicles over three months, which would reduce these minibuses’ carbon-dioxide emissions by 11%.
About 32 000 minibus taxis operate in Gauteng, leaving the largest footprint of all vehicles, said the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC), which is a project partner.
The pilot project would convert taxis to operate on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), as well as petrol, which would also result in a 31% reduction in the carbon monoxide levels.
Technical tests were conducted by the South African National Energy Research Institution (Saneri) on a Sasol-sponsored prototype minibus to assess the impact on carbon emissions, as well as fuel efficiency. The AIDC commissioned these tests at the Gerotek test facilities in Pretoria and the South African Bureau of Standards laboratories in East London.
“The test, the first of its kind in South Africa, showed that, although the overall fuel consumption is higher on LPG, the lower cost of LPG balances out the effect of fuel costs for the taxi operator,” said AIDC department manager Dineshan Moodley.
Other cost benefits included improved longevity of the engine and a reduction of overall maintenance costs over the lifespan of the vehicle, while vehicle performance remained unchanged.
Meanwhile, Gauteng MEC for Economic Development Qedani Mahlangu said that the hurdle that historically plagued these types of projects was accessibility to refuelling infrastructure. However, Sasol had already invested R1,2-million in refuelling infrastructure to date.
“Additional LPG refuelling stations have already been erected and will soon be erected by Sasol in Johannesburg and Tshwane, to support this sector’s growing demand,” she added.
Taxi drivers selected for the pilot project were trained on the use of the fuel system, safety in the handling of LPG and an overview of the conversion process and components used.
The AIDC also funded the training of ten preselected artisans by the LPG Safety Association of Southern Africa, as the technical skills required for this niche conversion industry were lacking in Gauteng.
The AIDC planned to roll out a second round of 150 converted taxis during the next 12 months, which was expected to lead to the sprouting of extra LPG refuelling stations across Gauteng to support the growing fleet of ‘green’ taxis.
Mahlangu said the initiative is a positive development towards government’s aim of achieving a green economy.
“The project has the potential to significantly advance our aims to create a low-carbon economy. South Africa’s most recent country report to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development noted with concern our over-reliance on ‘dirty energy’,” she pointed out.
Blue IQ Investment Holdings chairperson Mogopodi Mokoena added that the province’s Employment, Growth and Development Strategy identified the green economy as one of the dynamic drivers of future growth.
“With taxis transporting more than 14-million people daily, replication and expansion of the LPG conversion project will be of considerable advantage to the provincial and national government’s environmental management,” Mokoena said.