Two locally owned companies have turned this year’s skyrocketing gasoline prices into a business opportunity by converting gasoline-powered car engines into engines that run on cheaper natural gas.
For nine and seven months respectively, Superione Co and Global Impex Motor Cambodia have been converting Cambodian vehicles that run on petroleum, now selling at the all-time high of $0.88 a liter, to cars that run on Natural Gas for Vehicles, or NGV.
“Within nine months we have converted nearly 4,000 vehicles,” Superione Director Keth Hach Kanara said Wednesday.
“It can save drivers 50 percent compared to using gasoline or diesel,” he said.
Superione has three garages in Phnom Penh and one in Kompong Cham town, Keth Hach Kanara said. Additional garages are planned for Sisophon town in Banteay Meanchey province, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
GIMC began operations in March, owner San Saran said Tuesday. To install a 58-liter gas tank, the company charges $450.
Both company owners said that contrary to some fears, driving on natural gas tanks does not lead to explosions during accidents.
“It can’t explode because the gas can fly out quickly into the air,” San Saran said Wednesday.
He said taxi drivers in Thailand have been using natural gas for some time.
Phnom Penh resident Seak Bun Sea, 33, said that he switched to NGV seven months ago and could not be happier.
“From Phnom Penh to Kompong Cham, I use 14.4 liters of natural gas costing $5. Using regular gas costs $12,” he said.
Leng Thun Yuthea, director general for transport at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, said that as an engineer, he thought the government should issue a policy encouraging drivers to use NGV.
“Crude oil is now $70 per barrel, and I believe that later this year the price will be up to $100,” he said.
Last week, Finance Minister Keat Chhon told the National Assembly that the government cannot cut fuel taxes in order to reduce the pump price of gasoline for the hard-pressed public.
Instead, gasoline rations to government ministries would be cut by 10 percent.
The Transportation Ministry is conducting a study on the advantages and disadvantages of using natural gas in cars, Leng Thun Yuthea said.
“Using natural gas for vehicles costs 20 to 30 percent less, but it reduces engine life by about 20 to 30 percent as well,” he said.
The environmental effects of burning natural gas are also under study, he added.