Stakeholders in the nation’s automobile industry have commended the federal government for its position on Autogas Policy, saying it is a right step in the right direction.
The federal government had last month ordered chief executive officers and directors in agencies under the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources to convert all their official vehicles to run on autogas.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, who had already submitted all his vehicles to be converted to run on gas, said the conversion of vehicles in his ministry and agencies to run on autogas was to demonstrate to Nigerians that the government was serious about its declaration of 2020 as “the year of gas.”
Since 2019, the federal government had been pushing for the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in automobiles to utilise Nigeria’s abundant gas reserves.
Apart from creating jobs, the stakeholders are of the opinion that when fully implemented, the policy stands the chance of providing jobs to millions of Nigerians every year.
According to them, autogas used as an engine fuel is the most commonly used and accepted alternative fuel in the world today.
Speaking on the development, manager, Marketing, of Dana Motors Nigeria Limited, Mr Jimoh Olawale, said the growing cost of PMS in the country today can’t be overemphasised as the current deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry had become the latest policy drive of the government.
Olawale pointed out that it is a move that will pay off in due course.
He observed that all things being equal, it might in the long run be the right thing to do.
Explaining further, Olawale said, “To this end, and as a form of alternative for affordable option for car owners, the use of gas, LPG, CNG or NLG for fuelling cars is a good decision and will also address the issue of CO2 emission”.
He stated that it was important to note that the conversion of cars into a gas-powered engine rather than the current gasoline powered vehicles needs to be at the fore of this initiative.
“It is not enough to instruct filling stations to install the facility to dispense gas to car owners; they should also provide an enabling platform that makes it easy for existing car owners to switch or run a bi-fuel gasoline-LPG powered engines safely and efficiently”, he adde.
He said that the conversion of a hitherto PMS/AGO powered engine to LPG was possible if it is done by an authorised auto company.
“In other climes like South Korea, quite a number of cars run on gas”, he stated.
He continued: There’s no doubt that LPG vehicles are a much cheaper and eco-friendly option for drivers. However, the initial cost of either owning or converting their existing cars into ‘dual-fuel cars’ that can run on LPG as well as petrol can be high.
“However, achieving this feat isn’t going to be a walk in the park, there must be a strict regulation guiding the switch and designated auto companies with the capacity to do this effectively are key to the success of this initiative.
“The government needs to work in collaboration with the major auto companies and other stakeholders to offer incentives to help cushion the effect of this cost on the car owners and make it a very affordable alternative”.
In his submission, chairman, Motor Vehicles & Miscellaneous Assembly Sectoral Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr David Obi, expressed pessimism about the policy, wondering what would become of Nigerian petrol when the country changes to gas.
Dr Obi who is also board member representing MAN at the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC) said that Nigeria should first of all utilise petrol before going into electric vehicles or use of gas.
He expressed worry that Nigeria does not have enough cooking gas, let alone autogas, to be used by millions of car owners across the country.
Obi therefore recommended diesel in place of gas, saying “to my own understanding, it is a utopian idea.
“It is not going to work. We don’t have that determination to follow it up. And again, what do we do with our petrol. We are importing petrol, it also means we should be importing gas very soon to fuel the vehicles. Diesel is a better choice because it is a commercial fuel, in the sense that it is used more for Agriculture and for generating sets, it is cheaper too.
“I don’t even support the conversion to electric vehicles. We don’t even have electricity in our houses. We were talking about electric vehicles before this time. Let us first of all actualise the use of petrol. We have not used petrol well in the first instance. We are exporter of petroleum products and all our refineries are dead.”
Lamenting further, Obi said, “Where are you going to get the gas from, is it from the refineries that cannot produce petrol? Let us not kill ourselves with things that are awkward and inconsequential. We don’t even have enough cooking gas. We have not stopped the use of firewood. We should first spread the use of gas for cooking our meals, making it a success before you start talking about converting petrol engine to gas.
But speaking on the issue, an automotive consultant, Adrian Egonu, said that conversion of petrol engines to gas in Nigeria was very possible but needs a paradigm shift from the norm.
Egonu noted that previous strategies to develop the sector had not been well utilised.
“It has worked in other climes and even in Nigeria. Many cars, even commercial vehicles in Benin City, Edo State were running on such conversion. I believe some trucks in the Dangote fleet also run on CNG,” Egonu said.
The rationale behind the introduction of gas and even electric cars is to utilise abundant gas reserves and also to reduce emissions level respectively.
Already, experts have identified carbon emission as a major health issue, advising that nations should find means of tackling the menace. Proffering solutions, managing director/CEO and country manager of CFAO in Nigeria, Thomas Pelletier, noted that Electric Vehicles in Nigeria would be a bit premature considering the current shortage of electricity supply.
According to Pelletier, it would make no sense to plug an electric car into a generator.
To tackle emission, the automotive expert advised that the first thing should be to limit the age of vehicles imported to Nigeria and ban the importation of accident vehicles as it is done in other West African countries. “If these measures are put in place, I believe emissions would reduce overtime. Electric cars may also come as Nigeria gradually fixes its electric power challenge,” Pelletier said.
On his part, Olawale pointed out that Kia was the first brand to launch an electric vehicle (EV) in 2015, which still remains the best alternative to running/owning a car.
But due to lack of incentive from the government, Olawale hinted that the initial cost of owning these vehicles are quite expensive compared to gasoline-powered vehicles even though the total cost of ownership is better.
He said, “A common car buyer in the country today can’t afford to own an EV car or bi-fuel gasoline-LPG powered engines due to their initial cost, hence, the government is pivotal to making it a success in the country by offering incentives to auto companies either through tax relief on bi-fuel gasoline-LPG powered vehicles sold in the country or offer incentives at the point of sale.”
Olawale advised that since it is widely recognised as a versatile low-carbon fuel and a better option to PMS/AGO powered engines, to make the switch to a hybrid and gas-powered vehicles work, the government must have a singular purpose and concerted effort in making sure that it is not a beautiful policy on paper but an actual shift in the auto industry to help ameliorate the effect of the rising cost of PMS in the country.
He stated: “To us as a major auto company in the country, bi-fuel gasoline-LPG powered engines are not new to us. As far back as 2013, Kia introduced bi-fuel gasoline-LPG models in Europe. At Kia, we’re always looking for ways to fulfill every customer’s needs. The LPG powered models are designed to satisfy a clear demand for such a bi-fuel engine, demonstrating Kia’s determination to offer consumers across the world the widest choice of products.
“To this end, we’re excited about the prospects of the bi-fuel gasoline-LPG/CNG/NLG initiative by the government and we urge them to provide an enabling platform through incentives to make this policy drive a workable palliative and an alternative to the comparatively high cost of ownership of PMS/AGO powered engines”.