By John Ekongo
Global oil prices, market fluctuations, currency strengthening and the electricity crisis have almost brought every facet of life to its knees.
Southern Africa is hard hit by this global onslaught and Namibia is no exception.
In the wake of the recent upswing in the prices of petrol, more and more alternative methods of keeping cars on the road are needed.
The prices of petrol inland have been increasing over the last few years with the strengthening of the dollar. The Iraq war has been cited as another factor.
Last year alone, fuel increases went up more than six times.
European countries have for long turned to alternative fuel methods to propel their vehicles, with well over a million cars having turned to liquid petroleum gas (LPG).
Auto gas is the common name for LPG when it is used as a fuel in the internal combustion engines of vehicles. The same is also used in self-standing engines such as generators.
In Namibia, the price of LPG is slotted for N$5,50, whilst that of conventional fuel is N$7,60.
LPG is predominantly composed of propane and butane. When compressed at normal temperature, it becomes a liquid.
When this liquid is withdrawn from a cylinder the pressure drops and the liquid reverts to gas or what is known as vapourization.
LPG is proven to give high performance and is a clean, efficient and economical alternative to petrol.
Although it is relatively new in Namibia, Autogas Namibia says that the phenomenon of using gas is taking hold in the country. Managing Director of Autogas Namibia Pascal Mangala says that with the ever-increasing prices in diesel and petrol, there is no harm in people converting their vehicles to LPG propulsion.
Autogas Namibia (Pty) Ltd was established in 2002 and is a black economic empowerment entity wholy Namibian owned to distribute liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) at a lower price than conventioanl fuel.
Several entities and the government fleet have converted to LPG, with the aim to save some money.
Autogas is widely used as a “green” fuel as it decreases exhaust emissions. In particular, it reduces carbon dioxide emissions by around 20% compared to petrol.
There are several misconceptions about the product, such as it is believed that LPG fuel affects the performance of the vehicle, causing the vehicle to be slower. Whilst the other is that running a car on gas is expensive.
On the contrary, George Munyukwi of Autogas says that LPG fuel saves costs, not only in fuel but also in maintenance. “This is because there are no carbon deposits in the combustion area and LPG fuel has a high volume of octane,” he explained, adding that the power output is the same as for any other car.
The company does conversions and installation of the system from N$5 000 dollars, depending on the size of the tank that a customer desires.
Despite the lukewarm perception, Autogas Namibia says that it is still possible for people to have a dual system in their vehicle – one for conventional fuel and the one for LPG.
Any vehicle can run on both liquefied petroleum gas and conventional petrol. It can be switched from one to the other at the touch of a button while driving without any problem, stressed Autogas.
The initial difficulty for the company was to set up infrastructure able to sustain the marketability of their product and according to Munyukwi, the company has already set up various service stations across the country.
Currently it has two refilling facilities in Windhoek. It is also boasts with fully operational facilities at Otavi, Tsumeb, Ondagwa and Oshakati.
The company has its own bulk tankers that are able to deliver the gas constantly and reliably.
Liquid petroleum gas enjoys great popularity in numerous countries including Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Korea, The Netherlands, Poland, Serbia and Turkey. It is also available at larger petrol stations in the Czech Republic, France and the United Kingdom in the larger urban areas.