| A vehicle being filled with LPG at the Prince Anwar Shah Road outlet. Picture by Aranya Sen
Calcutta entered the age of LPG-driven cars on Thursday, with the launching of the city’s — and eastern India’s — first retail outlet for Indian Oil Corporation’s auto liquefied petroleum gas (Autogas) for vehicles at Prince Service Station, on Prince Anwar Shah Road.
All the taxis of the city will have to change over to Autogas from diesel soon. Announcing this during the launch, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said the state government has held talks with Hindustan Motors (HM), manufacturers of Ambassador cars, and the taxi associations in this regard.
“We have chalked out a plan for the taxis, by which HM will give the owners new cars in exchange for old ones under a monthly instalment scheme,” Chakraborty said.
Autogas can be used in petrol-driven vehicles provided with a conversion kit, which consists of a fuel tank conforming to gas cylinder rules and multi-factional valves. The tank will be fixed in the boot of the vehicle and has a capacity of 35 to 65 litres. The conversion kit costs between Rs 15,000 and Rs 25,000.
However, for diesel vehicles, the cost will be much higher as the engine needs to be converted fully into a petrol engine.
“Each diesel taxi conversion will cost around Rs 1 lakh. The taxi-owners may not agree to one-time payments, so we have worked out the instalment offer,” minister Chakraborty said. He claimed that the taxi associations had hailed the idea.
Subhas Kaushik, honorary secretary of the Calcutta Taxi Association, however, said he was not aware of any such scheme.
“The scheme will be implemented soon, after chalking out the modalities,” he told the gathering. The minister also asked those using domestic LPG cylinders in cars to refrain from doing so. “This is illegal and unsafe. If the users do not stop using domestic LPG cylinders in their cars, we will have to inform the police and take stern action against them,” Chakraborty warned.
According to Indian Oil officials, Autogas will cost Rs 21.19 per litre in Calcutta. “The per-kilometre running cost with Autogas will be 20 to 25 per cent cheaper than petrol,” they said.
The Supreme Court had sought a report from the state government in 2001 on its plans to convert vehicles to LPG to reduce air pollution. In its plan submitted to the apex court last year, the state government said all petrol-run vehicles would be converted in a phased manner.
Later, at a high-level meeting, the state asked the four major oil companies to take steps to set up Autogas filling centres.