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Gas take-up is down to duty

1st August 1996, Page 16
1st August 1996
Page 16
Page 16, 1st August 1996 — Gas take-up is down to duty
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by Charles Young and John Kendall • The future of compressed natural gas-powered commercial vehicles lies firmly in the government's hands, according to operators using the fuel who attended a gas vehicle demonstration organised by ERF last week.

Although the government has made the price of natural gas comparable to diesel, operators and manufacturers are calling for fuel duty to be reduced to the European Union minimum. Italy, for example, has no fuel duty on gas.

The reduction would offset a number of cost penalties which gas has compared with diesel: • gas is around 15% less efficient than diesel; • the capital cost of a gas truck is some £15,000 greater; • the loss in residual value is around £5,000 greater. Sam de Beaux, chief engineer at BOC Distribution, says his company needs to pay 55p less per gallon for gas to corn pensate, but believes the requirement for the UK as a whole is more likely to be 65p. The elimination of fuel duty would cover this.

HOC Distribution currently operates a CNG ERF EC12 tractor unit and an ERF EC6 rigid, both powered by Perkins gas engines. The vehicles are used for BOC's Marks & Spencer contract.

"Fuel and capital costs need to be sorted out before it becomes commercially viable," ERF Chairman Peter Foden told CM. "Providing nothing else is different, the build cost for a gas-powered truck is similar to diesel and it could be viable for us to build 100 a year. We could accommodate that more easily than a large manufacturer."

A further problem is the variation of gas quality in different countries. This affects the efficiency of the engine.

ERF and BOC Distribution are currently lobbying the government on the benefits of gas as a fuel. The main advantages are a reduction in noise and 80% reductions in nitrogen oxide exhaust emissions. Particulate emissions are almost non existent.

The UK currently'has about 350 gas vehicles. The leading gas-fuelled countries are Russia, Argentina and Italy.

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