CAIRO – 13 July 2020: While touring a housing project on Sunday aiming at giving accommodation to residents of unsafe slums, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi was quoted as saying that “new cars will not be licensed until they are converted to natural gas.” The president’s remarks were then elaborated by the industry minister so that people know what group of vehicles are mainly targeted by the decision.
Sisi’s remarks mainly addressed car owners whose vehicles are 20 years old or even older. Those owners can sell their old cars to the government to be dismantled for spare parts as a deposit for a new car with no interest payments, in accordance with the President’s directives.
Through an inventory conducted in coordination with the Ministry of Interior, there are 1.8 million vehicles considered under the initiative, which is set to be implemented over the course of two to five years, at a cost of LE 320 billion ($20 billion), A Cabinet’s statement quoted Minister of Industry Nevin Game’ as saying.
Over three years, there is a plan to convert 147,000 vehicles to natural gas instead of gasoline, in coordination with the Ministry of Petroleum, at a cost of LE 1.2 billion ($75.15 million).
However, converting 240,000 microbus vehicles running on diesel was found to be hard, the minister said, adding that these vehicles will be replaced with gas-powered ones, through a finance program that extends over four years at a cost of LE 53 billion ($3.3 billion).
The ministry also aims at building 366 natural gas stations nationwide to fuel the gas-powered vehicles.
New cars are also targeted in the plan. According to the statement, the minister said a new initiative will be launched to “encourage” car owners to convert their cars to run with bi-fuel system (gasoline and natural gas) in case they are qualified to work with gas.
However, this initiative will require that these cars are locally manufactured, at least to some extent prescribed by the Industry Ministry.
Concerning cars that were manufactured less than 20 years ago and whose engine efficiency has not decreased by more than 25 percent over time, Game’ added in a separate interview.
Benefits and risks
In an interview with 90 Minutes program on Al-Mihwar channel, Game’ said fueling cars with natural gas will reduce the cost to half for car owners. She also denied reports that converting cars to operate on gas harm their engines.
Earlier, former Petroleum Minister Osama Kamal said the conversion process will help the state save hard currency, reduce pollution and save other fuel sources for petrochemicals industry.
However, Dhruv Narayan Kaushik, an Indian B-tech Automobile Engineering graduate, argues that using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) in cars is a "double-edged sword."
Kaushik said that CNG has better fuel consumption, as its gaseous nature efficiently mixes with air, and therefore better thermal efficiency can be achieved. He added that the better combustion of natural gas leads to unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust.
However, he said that the better thermal efficiency of natural gas means higher temperature after combustion, causing the formation of Nitrogen Oxises (NOx), which pollutes environment.
Kaushik said that higher temperature can also reduce the life span of the parts in the cylinder block. Unlike Petrol and Diesel, natural gas does not have a lubrication effect inside the combustion chamber aiding in the piston movement, he added.
However, some people argue that modern engines have hardened valve seats so they don't suffer side effects of using CNG.