Unless you are immensely wealthy, you won’t contest the fact that fuel prices have taken the joy out of driving. It probably also causes a cloud to hang over your head even if you are merely commuting. And that, of course, is nearly every day. This predicament has led many to ask themselves a question: should I be looking at a car that runs on CNG? In fact, chances are that over the past year or so, the number of queries pertaining to CNG hatchbacks or cars – like ‘best CNG hatchback in India’, or ‘CNG hatchbacks in India’ – has increased exponentially. If you are one of these folks, here’s a quick low-down on the range of CNG cars that is available in the country, and the economics of buying one and living with it.
CNG kits versus factory-fitted
There are several setups that offer retro-fitment of CNG kits, but is it safe? And what kind of impact does it have on the life of your engine? Let’s take a look at the scenario. In June 2016, the Delhi government banned the registration of vehicles retrofitted with CNG kits. The ban was revoked in September that year, but the apprehensions behind the move still persist. And it’s not without reason. A large number of these kits may not be what they claim to be. Even more importantly, the establishments that offer conversions may not be authorised to do so. According to a recent newspaper report, which focused on the menace of illegal CNG kits in Delhi, only 41 setups are authorised to undertake CNG fitment in the Capital, but alarmingly, there are over 2,000 setups that offer this very service. Employing their services might not be a wise move. You must keep in mind that using a fake CNG kit results in significant performance loss in fuel-injected engines. Plus, several carmakers do not honour the warranty if a car has been retrofitted with a CNG kit by a third party. The answer is pretty much clear, then: if you are looking for a CNG hatchback in India, it makes sense to take a very good look at factory-fitted CNG cars, especially CNG hatchbacks.
CNG hatchbacks: Choices galore
Several manufacturers offer CNG hatchbacks in India. Maruti Suzuki is the first carmaker to offer factory-fitted CNG across its line-up. Today, the company, which has sold over five lakh CNG cars in India till date, offers S-CNG technology in its entire portfolio of factory-fitted CNG cars, which includes Alto K10, Big New WagonR, Celerio, Eeco, Ertiga as well as the Tour S and Super Carry.
The factory-fitted advantage
There is a reason why it pays to buy a factory-fitted CNG hatchback in India from a carmaker, and a lot of that has to do with the longevity of your car’s engine. CNG is a gas, and that means it does not have the lubricating properties of liquid fuels such as petrol. What that can lead to is quicker wear and tear on engine components. But several carmakers, including Maruti Suzuki, employ special materials to ensure the engine’s longevity. According to the company, its S-CNG technology (‘S’ stands for Smart) uses specially designed valve seats and mounting parts in the cylinder heads. Moreover, stainless steel pipes and patented ferrule joints are employed to ensure a leak-proof design.
Yet, another factor that tilts the balance in favour of factory-fitted CNG hatchbacks or cars is that the calibration in suspension, engine and vehicle dynamics, in addition to testing under a variety of driving conditions, is done with the CNG cylinder in place. Carmakers such as Maruti Suzuki also ensure extremely high levels of safety in their CNG hatchback cars in India by using pre-formed stainless steel pipes – the piping connects the gas cylinder to the engine compartment – unlike many aftermarket suppliers who use pipes made from inferior versions of carbon steel. Even more importantly, all the joints on the company’s CNG hatchbacks are custom-made and completely leak-proof.
Another important factor is homologation. Every car manufacturer gets their entire range individually homologated, while aftermarket suppliers only homologate a particular CNG kit. The kit can then be used on cars with engine capacities within 20 percent on the vehicle it has been tested on. And, that is a problem since it’s not an easy job calibrating the same ECU to different engines. As a result of this, there are chances that performance will take a hit, and an incorrectly tuned CNG vehicle will emit unburned methane.
In comparison, a factory-fitted CNG kit is consistent in terms of performance. Take for instance S-CNG cars by Maruti Suzuki. These come with dual interdependent ECUs that are calibrated to deliver optimum performance across all kinds of terrains. Being the first mover to provide CNG cars in India, Maruti Suzuki has the biggest portfolio of factory-fitted CNG cars on offer.
In that sense, Maruti Suzuki is a pioneer in India of factory-fitted CNG cars, and its S-CNG technology is at the centre of that.
To know more about its S-CNG technology, click here.