Inflation, Investing and Everything
Soaring petrol prices have prompted drivers to look for cheaper fuel alternatives. One alternative is to go for Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) cars. To cater to more CNG cars, three more CNG stations are due to open by the end of the year. Bi-fuel petrol-CNG cars are a major draw for motorists. It costs more than [SGD] $3,000 to retrofit the car before it can use CNG, but S$10 of CNG can allow one to travel up to 220 kilometres. New cars fitted with CNG technology benefit from the Green Tax Rebate, which is 40% off the car's open market value (OMV).
But owning a petrol-CNG car in Singapore is not all smooth driving. Besides the fact that the gas tank takes up a large amount of space in the boot of the car, those who own bi-fuel cars and live in the eastern parts of Singapore find it harder to refuel. At present, there is only one refuelling station on Jurong Island. Three more stations are due to open this year - one in Mandai by mid-February, another in Jalan Buroh in Jurong by end-February and the third in Serangoon North Avenue 5 by year's end. There are currently no plans to build a refuelling station in the east because most of the gas pipelines are situated in the west of Singapore.
- First of all, I have to say that I am rather skeptical about the benefits of switching one fossil fuel (petrol) for another (natural gas), and this is for many good reasons :
a. The gas fields of our main suppliers, Indonesia and Malaysia, are running out.
Plus, check out how the space-devouring CNG tank takes up half the boot (Chevrolet Optra Magnum CNG car shown). I saw this at the nearby Compass Point Mall the other day - the tank is big, round and ugly - the flimsy cover provided didn't make things very much better. Furthermore, with reviews like this one, it really does make me wonder.
I'm not so sure that CNG is a good approach. It seems more like an interim, stop-gap solution than a viable long-term solution. It would be much better if the car makers and their suppliers were to concentrate their efforts on lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles. The world needs to switch away from a fossil-fuel economy to an electric economy and then we should have more choices as to where that electric power may come from, be it hydro or geothermal or nuclear or renewables such as wind and solar power.
But having said all that, I am sure that motorists will continue to explore alternative options for their cars, with crude oil hitting all-time record highs and breaking records multiple days in a row nowadays. CNG represents an alternative solution, it does burn cleaner than conventional petrol, and it is a lot cheaper, no doubt about that. Like many things in life, it is about trade-offs : do you need range and power? Do you mind the inconvenience of a smaller boot and having to hunt for refilling stations? Do you mind buying into the interim CNG solution right now, or wait a couple of years or so till lithium-ion powered hybrids start hitting the markets en masse? These are things to ponder about, and in time we will see how the alternative-fuel vehicle market develops here.
See also :
1. Singapore's first public CNG station to be ready by Jan 2008
Most popular blog postings on lowem.log :
1. Singapore MRT rail network length to double by 2020
Featured articles on lowem.log :
1. Book review : Shut Down by William Flynn